Collage essays: from concealment to display

There’s only a little bit of language stuff in this posting, which is mostly in the Gayland category, about the representation of men and male-male relationships (especially, men’s bodies and man-man sex) in material intended for (and/or appreciated by) a gay male audience.

Some of my Gayland essays are in my voice; these are “academic” in tone, despite their subject and (sometimes) their language. But others (the Collage Essays) speak in another voice, that of an alter ego (call me Alex), and are keyed to two sets of images: images in “male art” (including photography, film, and video as well as painting, drawing, etc.), gay porn, ads (for mass market audiences or specifically aimed at gay men), and so on; and the collages I make from such items as raw material.

(Most of this visual material is definitely on the wrong side of the displayable-in-public line, so I can’t show it to you here.)

In the collage essays, Alex’s talk shifts back and forth between (on the one hand) displaying his body and his sexual desires, attitudes, and activities, and (on the other) viewing other men’s bodies and so on in erotic terms —  between giving and receiving, or offering (himself) and desiring (another), or in the terms of commercial transactions, between purveying and consuming, or selling and buying, or hustler and john. Take it! / Let me have it!

(I posted one of the collage essays in my piece on shirt-lifing a while back.)

This duality in the way sexuality is configured psychologically is pretty much built into the condition of gay men, and I have simply let Alex embody the duality. (Alex is inclined to give advice to his gay readers, by the way. He fancies himself as a jazzed-up Dan Savage, and he thinks he’s cuter and hotter than Dan, but, frankly, I think he’s deceiving himself.)

This particular set of collage essays is in the Offering Your Body series, under Displaying Your Equipment, in four installments — The Basket, Peekaboo, The Hard Dick, Sweet Cock — moving from (ostentatious) concealment to display, much as with the avoidance vs. open use of taboo vocabulary.

(This material was essentially completed while I was at the Stanford Humanities Center in 2005-06. The Center was hospitable enough to sponsor (in November 2005, on the occasion of a visit from Linda Williams of Berkeley) an exhibition of my XXX-rated collages, plus some raw materials that I was working with at the time and drafts of some of these collage essays. However, the Center is not directly responsible for any of this stuff, and it certainly didn’t pay me to do it, just gave me a free space in my life to play with a project in addition to the one they were paying me for, on the advice literature on English grammar, usage, and style.)

And now I turn to microphone over to Alex.

The Basket: DicknBalls, Draped

Ostentatious concealment: showing while hiding.  You’re wearing jeans, or just briefs, or a jockstrap – anyway, something that covers your equipment.  But anybody who looks can see what you’re packin’, sometimes right down to the bend in your cock and the size of your balls and just how hard your dick is.  It’s like those bumper stickers that say BUCK FUSH: honey, everybody understands your message perfectly, even if you didn’t actually say “fuck”.

Underwear ads have brought the Basket display to some kind of pinnacle.  Occasionally the New York Times Magazine, for instance, will print a men’s underwear ad that’s just breathtakingly hot, enough to bring the steeliest fag to his knees, his mouth watering in desire.

Lots of guys find the Basket more enticing than the Hard Cock.  If you flaunt your basket, you’re leaving little to the imagination, but you’re still leaving something to the imagination, and that can get guys lined up to go that last little bit and get into your pants.  They just can’t wait to unwrap that package.

Peekaboo: Lettin’ It Hang Out

One step up from the Basket display, working in stages towards plain ol’ Hard Cock.  Your equipment kind of spills out of the clothing that’s supposed to contain it.   Your dickhead peeks up over the waistband of your pants (or shorts or underwear or trunks or jockstrap or whatever), or out through one of the legholes (Peekaboo Dickhead).  Or your fly is open far enough, or your pants pulled down just enough, that the base of your dick is visible, but the shaft is mostly tucked in (Peekaboo Dickroot).  More blatantly, you’ve pulled your dick, or dick and balls together, through your fly to expose your equipment fully to onlookers (Dick Out The Window).

Further steps, foregrounding your equipment more and more, while backgrounding your pants more and more: Fly Full Open, with your pants framing your equipment on both sides; Pants Down To Hips, with your pants (or whatever) down to expose your dick, or your entire crotch, but just below; Framed Crotch (Pushup DicknBalls), with underpants, trunks, or jockstrap rolled up under your balls, framing your crotch and pushing your equipment up and out); Pants Down to Knees, with your pants (or whatever) pretty much out of the way but still visible; and Dude, What Happened to My Pants?, with your pants (or whatever) around one or both ankles, or on the ground at your feet – just barely in the picture at all.

The only thing that keeps these last Peekaboo displays from being just a Hard Cock display is that you seem to have forgotten to finish taking your clothes off.  Nevertheless, Peekaboo has its attractions: a completely naked guy, even one with a raging hard-on, can always be viewed as a kind of art object (and there are plenty of books of drawings, paintings, and photographs that treat the naked male body in just this way, though even the most elevated of these can incite lust in many a gay man), but a partly clothed guy with his naughty bits hanging out is just a dirty perv, and, man, do we ever like dirty pervs!

The Peekaboo displays communicate readiness for sex.  You’re in the process of taking off your clothes for your man (your viewer).

Hard Cock: Just the Dick, Man

Remember: A cigar might sometimes just be a cigar, but a dick is never just a dick.  It also stands for the whole man, for his body, for his maleness, for his masculinity, for his energy and power, for his worth and standing, and probably a lot more.  For your average faggot, a cock is a magical organ, the source of that magical substance, cum.  Most fags are seriously dick-centered, even more so than most straight guys (and that’s saying a lot).  So we start at that hard core.

Here’s the display of your naked body stripped down to the core, the raw exposed dick that you’re offering to other faggots, for them to take in their hands, mouths, or assholes.  Hard and proud and out.  Soft is an alternative; see Sweet Cock.  Concealing while showing is an alternative: see the Basket.  Exposing yourself while keeping (most of) your clothes on is an alternative; see Peekaboo.  But the display of a hard cock on a naked body is enduringly popular, and, though crude, often thrilling.

You might opt for minor accessorizing – a hat, boots, athletic socks, a bit of leather, a baseball bat, say – and you can combine this display with others (Pits ’n’ Tits and Buns are frequent choices), but mostly your choices are limited:  show your stuff front on, or to the side (or in the arty rear angle where you bend over and display your butt, with your hard tool hanging down between your legs); pick a facial expression; pick a setting (porn flicks are astonishingly imaginative here; public transport, anyone?); pick a position for your body (standing, sitting, kneeling, and lying down are dependable choices, but feel free to test your ingenuity and athleticism); and decide what you want to do with your hands (one or both on your dick, the two of them clasped behind your back to thrust you forward, cupping your balls, playing with your tits, caressing your ass, whatever).  Come to think of it, that’s a lot of choices.

It can be stripped down further, eliminating diversions from the centerpiece cock.  You can present yourself from the neck down; stop worrying about whether you look goofy or whether your hair is a mess.  Or just from the waist down.  Or just your crotch.  Or offer nothing but your dick, through a glory hole: no balls, no ass, maybe a bit of pubic hair, but otherwise pure, delicious cock.

Sweet Cock: The Dick at Rest

The Hard Cock display is highly focused; events might unfold in all sorts of ways, but the initial message is TAKE MY DICK, and this message seems, well, urgent.  If you display a soft cock, all your options, including the possibility that you’re mostly interested in the other guy’s dick, are open.  A soft cock is somewhat backgrounded: definitely in the picture but maybe not the central figure.  Your whole body is available, for affectionate play (nuzzling, licking, stroking, kissing), rough-housing, cooperation, turn-taking, or competition for control.

Plus, if you present a soft cock, you’re letting your guy get you hard, rather than taking the project out of his hands, so to speak.  That’s a pleasure in itself.  Pansy Division, “Strip U Down” (from Pile Up): “It’s nice to find a hard-on, but sooner than I’d planned. I’d rather start with a softy, and feel you hardening in my hand.”

Anyway, though every dick is beautiful, each in its own way, many a hard dick, especially a really big one, looks like a protrusion from its owner’s body rather than like an integral part of that body.  (There are exceptions, and these are beautiful bodies indeed.)  Sometimes you don’t frankly care if his dick seems to be more or less accidentally attached to the rest of him – you’re a fuckin’ dickpig, and you’re in a hurry to get your prize – but a lot of time you’ll want to connect to more of him.   Since most guys’ dicks at rest seem, well, sweet, especially if the guys are smiling, a soft dick can be deeply attractive and inviting.

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