Like/unlike

[This posting doesn’t have much about language in it.  Like my “Music of ruin” posting, it has some recollections in it; but mostly it’s a posting in the Gender and Sexuality category, in the Gayland subcategory.]

Today I going to put together themes from my posting “The Truly Huge” (on gigantically muscular men in gay porn) and my posting “Safe for public consumption” (on an arty Tom Bianchi man-on-man photo that stays just on the good side of the displayable-in-public line).

Two things from the first: on the whole, the pairing of men who are physically (and temperamentally) very similar (one Truly Huge guy with another, in particular); when their characteristics differ, the assignment of somewhat different statuses or roles to men according to these characteristics (so, “top”, dominant, really butch Truly Huge Fireman with “bottom”, subordinate, slim Faggy Firehouse Rookie).

I’ll save for another occasion some discussion of the elaborate coding of roles in Gayland pairings (the topic label is B/T). What I’m stressing here is that Like With Like is a powerful organizing principle in those precincts.

And from the second posting, Bianchi’s pairing of two guys who are physically so extraordinarily similar to one another (down to their haircuts and tans) that I thought they might be twins. (Bianchi has used twin brothers as models — for instance, Hunter and William in volume 1 of On the Couch, who are described as being “affectionate”, though there’s no dick action shown, or implied, in the photos.) The volume 2 guys, Mathieu and Marcelo (this is Gayland, so nobody’s name is necessarily their “real” name), are described as “boyfriends” and not presented as brothers (Akbar and Jeff: brothers or lovers or both?); no dicks are shown in the eight photos, but just barely (saved by the tighty-whities!), and there’s kissing. M&M are getting it on, with great pleasure.

I’m also putting off for another time the Concealment/Display theme so nicely illustrated in the M&M photos, as in many of the underwear ads I’ve posted about here.

And I’m also not touching on the extension of Like With Like to the wider Mirroring theme, which takes in mirror images: men making love with their own images in a mirror, and couples (or larger groups) exploiting such images as an aphrodisiac.

(Just to emphasize here: Gayland is a fantasy place, not the actual world of gay men, their bodies, their desires and practices, and their relationships — though there’s plenty of traffic back and forth between the two places, and between these gay places and the world of straight people, their bodies, their desires and practices, and their relationships.)

Some illustrations of Like With Like in the porn palaces of Gayland, starting with two three-way couplings (dicks just south of the bottom border of the images): twins sharing a buddy, Lucky Pierre, who can be distinguished from them pretty much only by his hair color:

and three bears denning up together:

Then some two-ways: blond-on-blond action in the business suite (guys in, and soon to be out of, business clothes have their own subgenre of gay porn):

and a historic relic from Bob Mizer’s Athletic Models Guild, with a remarkable mutual-gun-fellatio (and mutual-gunbelt-fondling) image of two horny young cowboys:

(They’re minimally different: one with blond hair, red bandanna, and black hat, the other with black hair, no bandanna, and red hat. Ok, Black Hat is a bit taller.)

A reminiscence, with Ned Rorem in it, sort of. Back in the 70s, I was in NYC on business — negotiating a public television series on language, a collaboration between Ohio State Linguistics and the Yale University Media Design Studio, and, eventually WNET in New York (our project was never funded, but Gene Searchinger eventually got funding for an excellent series called The Human Language: Linguistic Society of America clips here), and staying with my friend Larry.

Larry and I went to dinner at a restaurant in the West Village, where we found my OSU colleague Robert (also on the tv project) and his lover Howard (a psychiatrist in New York), already seated at a table for two. Robert and Howard were physically similar and dressed very similarly, in what you could describe as Casual Village Leathergay costume, and their gestures and speech styles were mirrored.

About ten minutes into the evening, Larry leaned across our table to me to remark, “How strangely like attracts unto like.” Or at least that’s how I remembered it.

Recalling this a few days ago, I realized how much Larry’s remark sounded like a quotation, from something or other, but what? Larry now lives and works roughly halfway around the world from me, but we keep in touch electronically, and he replied quickly to a query about the occasion, saying:

I remember the dinner and the comment. The line I was quoting (or maybe just paraphrasing) is: “Always, strangely, like with like.” Can’t vouch for the commas.

My memory of the source is less firm. I feel fairly sure it’s Ned Rorem–very probably in one of his diaries, and possibly even in the one you once gave me …

It’s a great line, whoever wrote it, and I’m astonished that Google yields nary a hit.

Ah, Rorem! I still have the volume in question, so I could reply immediately to Larry:

You just have to know where to search: {“Ned Rorem” “New York Diary” “like with like”} gets it; the secret, obviously, is knowing that it’s the New York Diary (1967) …  Now, armed with the Google Books hit, I’ve been able to find it in my copy, and photocopy it.

You got it almost exactly: “but always, paradoxically, like with like.”

(Sometimes, some people can produce near-verbatim recall.)

It’s from 1959, in a section with Rorem’s description of the baths he frequented in NYC and philosophical reflections about them:

… ceaseless efforts at cross-breeding … couplings of white with black, beauty with horror, aardvark with dinosaur, panda with pachyderm, skinny-old-slate-gray-potbelly-bald with chubby-old-slate-gray-potbelly-bald, heartbreakingly gentle with stimulatingly rugged–but always, paradoxically, like with like.

(Rorem is famously open and detailed about his experiences and feelings, including his sexual exploits and wild infatuations. His descriptions of gay sex drip with distaste for the physical acts and their setttings, all the while fueled by an intense, unquenchable desire for other men’s bodies, with all of it  blanketed over in romanticized fuzz.)

So Rorem, reporting from the bathhouse district of Gayland — places that belong uneasily to both a fantasy world and the real one — gave me the tag Like With Like.

(Rorem, celebrated setter of songs — I have a number on my iTunes — and diarist, is now 86. He and Larry and I have all survived the manifold pleasures of our younger years to enjoy the pleasures of our advancing years (cue Rossini). Sadly, Robert and Howard did not.)

In Gayland, as in the actual gay and straight worlds, association (Like With Like) and contrast (Opposites Attract) are both operative principles. In clichés: a gay man is searching for his twin self, and also for the other half that he needs to make himself complete. (Of course, in fantasy no actual searching needs to done, since the desired other can always be satisfyingly conjured up.) The drive to associate with people you (would like to think you) are like is very strong — it’s a major factor in sociolinguistic behavior — so in fantasy association tends to dominate contrast, in choosing buddies, tricks, and lovers. Association is then the main dish, contrast the condiments and spices.

The Law of Attraction. My original searches for “like is attracted unto like” (as I recalled the expression) led me, not very helpfully, to an odd place (the web is like that), to the Teaching of Abraham and its central tenet, the Law of Attraction, variously characterized as

like attracts like;
like is attracted unto itself;
“that which is like unto itself is drawn”;
birds of a feather flock together;
“it is done unto you as you believe”

We’re in Self-Improvement Land, Abraham-Hicks Province. That’s Jerry and Esther Hicks, authors of The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham (Hay House, 2006); they do Law of Attraction workshops and sell books and a set of 11 CDs.

Abraham who? you ask. The Abraham of the Hebrew bible? Some modern sage who goes by only his first name? Or is it a last name (as in F. Murray Abraham)? None of these, as it turns out, and this is where things go loopy.

As (incredibly sympathetic) reviewer Lleu Christopher puts it, on the book’s amazon.com site:

Abraham is described as a collection of evolved non-physical entities. They are channeled by Esther Hicks, who also gives many public workshops. Essentially, the message of this book is that your thoughts and feelings determine your reality.

(A “collection of evolved … entities” was bound to lead to pronoun troubles, and so it has for Christopher.)

If you’re a gay man, I suggest that you determine your reality by going back and looking at Bianchi’s photo of the M&M coupling and the other photos reproduced above and the Playing with Fire flicks (or any other similar images; these guys are standing around on every damn street corner in Gayland, after all) and pick from them a photo with a set of guys you’d like to, um, associate with. Then you can be just like them. And do them too.

6 Responses to “Like/unlike”

  1. Notes: euphemisms 7/26/10 « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] filing examples while watching a gay porn flick (Sweat, a “food-fuckers” scene, with three guys of remarkably similar appearance, down to the minimal buzzcuts, having enthusiastic sex with one another, most of it involving […]

  2. Kim Darnell Says:

    this makes me think of the Gestalt principle of similarity, by which we cognitively group things together that we perceive as being similar. this would suggest some sort of natural predisposition to put like things together…

  3. Who is this message intended for? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] then two ToF workmen – Like With Like — doing extreme Basket displays, making it unmistakably clear that they are indeed the truly […]

  4. Update: the law of attraction « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] That’s “like attracts unto like”, pursued with respect to sexual attraction here, though the discussion in that posting veers off at one point into Esther Hicks and the Teachings […]

  5. o m g « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Both are scruffily masculine, and very much like-unto-like. […]

  6. 4G / fourgy « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] three-ways here; and a fourgy — two couples — plus an extra man standing […]

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