Annals of adorable

All about Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, an adorable couple who are fools for kissing, in public or anywhere. NPH and DB standing side by side, working together for rainbow causes:


And then kissing at their wedding:


And then, being totally adorable together in the video “Why Am I the One?”, which you can view here.

(Hat tip to Kim Darnell, who sent me the super-cute spaghetti-eating sequence from the video.)

The music for the video is Fun’s “Why Am I the One”, from their 2012 album Some Nights. You can watch their own video here.

This posting is part of my program of celebrating, in images and in texts, same-sex relationships of all types: friendships, affectionate partnerships, same-sex marriages, and same-sex sexual acts of all sorts, from the sweetest to the most hard-core. My goal is to work for equity and parity with representations and celebrations of heterosexual relationships; our culture is awash in those. I propose to treat their same-sex counterparts as equally unremarkable.

Now, notes on NPH and DB, their presentations of self, and their presentations of their relationship. I will eventually be led (unavoidably, I think, because of widespread beliefs and attitudes about sex between men) to a frank discussion, in very plain language, of mansex. That material will be unsuitable for kids and the sexually modest.

DB and NPH: background. From Wikipedia:

David Michael Burtka (born May 29, 1975) is an American actor and professional chef. He is known for his acting roles in theatre and television shows such as How I Met Your Mother and The Play About the Baby. After his role on How I Met Your Mother, Burtka gained media attention for dating Neil Patrick Harris, whom he later married in 2014.

… Burtka and Harris are parents to fraternal twins Gideon Scott and Harper Grace, born in October 2010, via a surrogate mother.

Presentations of self. In unstudied interactions, when they are not acting characters, NPH and DB present themselves rather differently. In these contexts, NPH is normatively masculine — not swaggeringly male, like his character Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, but just unremarkably masculine; you wouldn’t guess he’s gay (unless he talked about his life).

[The standard label for such a presentation is straight-acting, which I find deeply offensive. Some men who present this way refer to themselves as regular guys, which I still find problematic, because it seems to treat other men as deviant, abnormal. Here I’ll refer to such guys — bear in mind that I’m one of them — as NMGs, for ‘normatively masculine gays’, though you might want to treat that label as an orphan initialism, unmoored from its historical source, now just a label for a certain kind of person.]

DB, on the other hand, you’d peg almost immediately as gay, mostly from his facial expressions and a bit from his body language. It’s subtle, but to my eyes, unmistakable. He’s not nelly. He’s a type of gay man for which we have no standard label; I’ve come to refer to such men as pleasantly gay. (I have NMG friends, pleasantly gay friends, nelly friends, macho gay friends too; the world of gay men is diverse and complex.)

DB is, of course an actor, perfectly capable of inhabiting straight (even macho) characters. And NPH is also an actor, a stunningly good one, perfectly capable of inhabiting gay (even quite effeminate) characters. Witness NPH’s performance as Hedwig in the Mitchell/Trask Hedwig and the Angry Inch; study his rendition of “Sugar Daddy” (Hedwig singing to her black sugar daddy: “If you got some sugar for me, Sugar Daddy, bring it home”) at the 2014 Tony awards, which you can watch here. (NPH did in fact get a Tony.)

(As a bonus: in the video, NPH goes out into the audience, and kisses Burtka there. They really do like to kiss.)

The musical Hedwig was a surprising smash on Broadway and in the movies (summary of the remarkable genderqueer plot here). Well, the show rocks, as you can see in the “Sugar Daddy” video.

Presentations of relationships. Some facts: NPH is a bit taller than DB, and a bit older (only about two years). More important, NPH is a major career success, while DB is a solidly competent actor (and dancer and singer), but he’s not in NPH’s class. And then there’s the disparity in conventional masculinity. If these guys were characters in a gay porn movie, DB would play the subordinate, b, role to NPH’s t, and the course of their sexual connection would be largely predictable — but the asymmetry can be quite subtle. (See the Page on this blog inventorying postings about b/t roles.)

These roles (which are re-inscriptions in the gay male world of roles in heterosexual relationships) figure in real-life relationships as well, but in still a more muted way. One common manifestation is in the way two men present themselves as a couple. NPH and DB largely present themselves as equals (as in #1 above), but sometimes DB is seen “courting” NPH:


And sometimes NPH has his arms around DB, while DB rests his hand for support on NPH’s shoulder:


Probably more significantly, though they kiss a lot, NPH is most often the active participant in the kiss, as in #2. On the other hand, DB proposed marriage to NPH, not vice versa (in heterosexual couples, it’s conventionally the man who proposes to the woman).

The way they talk is equally complex. NPH refers to DB as his better half, a conventional expression used by men to refer to their female partners, but then NPH sometimes adds that DB is the “better man” and the “better dad”.  (The second is complex, since parenting is conventionally viewed as primarily the woman’s responsibility in a heterosexual relationship.) Finally, DB does the cooking (again, conventionally the women’s responsibility in a heterosexual relationship) — but then he’s a professional chef.

All in all, the two men do a remarkably good job of presenting themselves as equals in spite of the considerable disparity in their status and power.

As for who does what to who in sex, that’s none of our business (unless they want to talk about it). But in real life there is very little association between the b/t roles you’d assign to male partners in a relationship on first principles (counting up “masculinity points”) and the roles they take in mansex. Not zero, but very little. (In casual sex, there’s more of a relationship, but we’re talking about partner sex here.)

I’m now about to take us into the Mansex Zone, so if the topic is uncomfortable for you, you should bail out here.

To begin with, as I’ve ponted out here before, in real life most guys suck cock and most guys get their cocks sucked. (As with everything, there are personal tastes, but this is the generalization.) The issues arise with fucking. A substantial number of gay men aren’t interested in fucking, in either role. Another substantial number believe that, as one gay man said to me, “It’s not sex unless somebody gets fucked” (an attitude that corresponds to a widespread attitude among heterosexuals, especially young ones, that manual sex and oral sex aren’t real sex).

Then there are personal preferences: guys can be total tops, versatile tops, versatiles, versatile bottoms, or total bottoms. I don’t know of any credible studies about the distribution of these preferences among men in partnerships, or of the fit between the two men in a partnership, or of any associations between these preferences and other characteristics of the men.

What’s important to be clear about at this point is that, whatever their preferences or their practices,

(P) men engage in these sex acts because they find them both physically pleasurable and emotionally satisfying

(and they do so with partners who are not only objects of their desires, but who are also their buddies and men they love — men they admire and respect, men whose company they enjoy, and so on).

The ChristoNutball backlash and the butt-fuck backlash. My program of working for equity and parity between gay and straight with respect to representations and celebrations of relationships founders on at least two shoals.

One is hopeless: Christians who believe, sincerely, that they know the Mind of God and so know that same-sex desire and same-sex acts are contrary to God’s Law — mortal sins, in fact — so that representing and celebrating same-sex relationships are themselves offenses against God. There is no making headway with ChristoNutballs (or their counterparts in other religions): reason, evidence, appeals to fellow-feeling, whatever, are as nothing to someone in sure possession of God’s Truth.

The other isn’t hopeless, but it’s a tough haul: people, especially men, who see representations of same-sex relationships as evoking what they see as the most extreme form of such relationships, namely a guy fucking a guy, an image that they find deeply disgusting and deeply threatening, because they identify with the guy getting fucked, and they believe that

(V) being fucked is being subjected to an act of violence, a painful, aggressive, and humiliating violation of the body (humiliating because it is both feminizing and also a defeat at the hands of another man)

What makes belief (V) so hard to address is that it seems to spring from decidedly unsavory attitudes some men bear towards women: that women are inferior (so that being “treated like a woman” is humiliating), that their role is to serve men (in particular, to supply sexual services to men), that fucking a woman is conquering her, dominating her, controlling her, keeping her in her place. Attitudes that lead to rape as an assertion of power, and also to anal rape of other men, or painfully penetrating other men anally with broomsticks or whatever, as an assertion of power over them and humiliation of them.

The disjuncture between (P), the celebratory, bright sexual world according to gay men, and (V), the alarming, dark world of mansex according to some straight men, could hardly be greater. What gay men can do, what I can do, is amplify on the former world, explaining the physical pleasures and the emotional satisfactions of mansex in vibrant detail, to sketch an alternative to (V). Not to say, Try It, You’ll Like It — though in fact the techniques of mansex can be learned, and can provide satisfactions even if you’re a guy who’s not aroused by other guys, as straight brolovers have discovered — but to depict an attractive alternative sexual world based on mutual pleasure and regard.

It’s been many years since I was active in this world, but I have my memories and (oh my yes) my fantasies, but I can start by saying that in this world I’m a versatile bottom. More generally, I love dick — in my hand, in my mouth, and (especially) in my ass — and I love getting jacked off by someone who knows my style, getting my cock sucked by someone with a hungry mouth, occasionally fucking a hot tight ass, all of this better with a guy who turns me on, and even better with a guy I love.

But since we’re on butt-fucking here, let me just say that when I’m in that world I love getting fucked. It feels fantastic, in ways I’ll elaborate on in another posting, and when it really goes well (as it almost always did with Jacques) I feel intensely masculine, sharing my body with another man, becoming man-squared with him inside me (and on his end J felt the same way: joined together, we were awesomely powerful). That’s a really big emotional payoff.

You don’t have to share these feelings — I don’t expect most straight guys to — but maybe you can imaginatively appreciate mine. Look, I’m not much of a sports fan, but I can imaginatively appreciate the world of serious sports fans by reading some writers who are really good at depicting this world, and by watching films and videos (like the wonderful tv series Sports Night) that take me into it.

2 Responses to “Annals of adorable”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Just to add: if NPH’s performances don’t make you smile with pleasure, your heart has been inexplicably frozen.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Further note: NPH and DB are not just being themselves on camera. They’re also deliberately putting their affection out in public, a lot, on behalf of LGBT visibility and acceptance. Yes, they’re undeniably adorable, but they’re also, admirably, making a political statement. NPH has been open about his advocacy for some time; see the HBO documentary “The Out List”.

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