Archive for the ‘Masculinity’ Category

limbo dancers

April 18, 2018

(There will eventually be plain accounts of sex between men, so the later parts of this posting will not be at all suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

In the process of clearing out hundreds of prospective postings, material that, with great regret, I will never be able to get to, I came across an NYT obituary from 12/11/17, “Roy Reed, Times Reporter Who Covered the Civil Rights Era, Dies at 87” by John Schwartz, with this illustration:

(#1) Reed, looking impossibly young, on the cover of his memoir, published in 2012 by the University of Arkansas Press, recounting his 13 years with The New York Times

This posting will end up being about the limbo dancers of Reed’s title, but first some notes on Reed’s career, from the NYT obit:

On June 6, 1966, James Meredith tried to make history for the second time. Having integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962, he announced a plan to walk from Memphis deep into his neighboring home state. Before getting very far, however, he was shot in the back by a white man.

More than 1,000 miles away in New York City, the national editor of The New York Times, Claude Sitton, was scanning the photos being transmitted by news agencies and the images on his television while looking for his reporter who was covering Mr. Meredith.

“Where’s Roy Reed? he demanded.

To Mr. Reed’s chagrin, he had been several hundred yards down the road in a grocery store with other reporters, having a cold Coca-Cola. He scrambled to the scene, however, and filed the day’s story, then further redeemed himself by scoring the first interview with Mr. Meredith in his hospital room.

Mr. Reed, a self-professed “hick-talking Arkansawyer” who worked for The Times from 1965 until 1978, spending much of that time crisscrossing the American South, died on Sunday night at a hospital in Fayetteville, Ark., said his son, John. He was 87. He had been unconscious since having a severe stroke at his home in Hogeye, near Fayetteville, on Saturday morning.

… In “The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation,” Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff wrote that Mr. Reed “could write magically, choosing words that caught your eye.” Mr. Sitton hired him, they wrote, because he “knew Reed to be unfailingly accurate, deeply reflective, uncommonly polite, and, like the Times reporters who had preceded him in the South, he spoke Southern.”

[Reed’s account of the confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma AL is especialy notable. From Wikipedia about the bridge: “The Edmund Pettus Bridge carries U.S. Route 80 Business (US 80 Bus.) across the Alabama River in Selma, Alabama. Built in 1940, it is named after Edmund Winston Pettus, a former Confederate brigadier general, U.S. Senator from Alabama, and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. … The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when armed police attacked Civil Rights Movement demonstrators with billy clubs and tear gas as they were attempting to march to the state capital Montgomery. The marchers crossed the bridge again on March 21 and successfully walked to the Capitol building.” Reed vividly described the naked hatred on the faces of the men, women, and, yes, children who lined the route of the march.]

Mr. Reed, in a memoir, “Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent’s Adventures with The New York Times,” wrote that “Speaking Southern was not just a matter of drawl or twang; it meant a different way of framing thoughts.” It meant that he understood the territory, even as he was appalled by the racism and violence that undergirded the suppression of voting rights.

… His memoir “Beware of Limbo Dancers” was published in 2012. The title, he wrote, came from a message neatly written on the inside of a door in a bathroom stall in the old New York Times building on West 43rd Street.

“This was a style of wit that I had never before encountered,” he wrote. “I suddenly knew that I was a stranger in town — not unwelcome, just a stranger.’’

The mensroom graffito BEWARE LIMBO DANCERS has been reported in collections of such graffiti — for instance, Peter Higginbotham’s collection. The metaphorical limbo dancer seems to occur only in such contexts, as a playful reference to the insertive partner in one of the practices of anonymous t-room mansex, what I’ve called subpartition sex and others have referred to understall play. What Reed stumbled on in that mensroom in the old NYT building was an allusion to a whole social world that he seems to have had no knowledge of: the subterranean world of sex between men in public places. Very much not specifically a New York City thing, but widespread in cities, college towns, truck stops, and highway rest stops.

The metaphor of a limbo dancer is an apt one for the role. From Wikipedia:

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Limbo is a traditional popular dance contest that is known to have originated on the island of Trinidad.

The dance originated as an event that took place at wakes in Trinidad and Tobago, and was popularized by dance pioneer Julia Edwards (known as the First Lady of Limbo) and her company which appeared in several films, in particular Fire Down Below(1957), and toured widely in the Caribbean, Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Africa in the 1960s and later. The film Julia and Joyce(2010) by Trinidadian/American dance researcher/choreographer Sonja Dumas features the evolution of the Limbo and the contribution of Julia Edwards to the explosion of its popularity.

A horizontal bar, known as the limbo bar, is placed atop two vertical bars. All contestants must attempt to go under the bar with their backs facing toward the floor. Whoever knocks the bar off or falls is eliminated from the contest. When passing under the bar, players must bend backwards. No part of their bodies is allowed to touch the bar and no part other than their feet and hands may touch the ground. After everyone has completed their turns, the bar is lowered slightly and the contest continues. The contest ends when only one person can successfully “limbo” under the bar without penalty.

Music for the event: Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock” of 1962, which you can listen to here.

(#3)

The crucial move in limbo dancing is getting the lower body under the bar, thrusting it forward. That’s the connection to t-room mansex, where one man (the insertive partner) offers his genitals to another (the receptive partner) by getting them under the partition between two mensroom stalls and thrusting them forward. In the lingo of t-room mansex, this is called sticking it under.

The receptive partner gets down on his knees and sucks cock, possibly balls as well, and maybe plays with his partner’s asshole. But the encounter —  subpartition sex / understall play — is primarily a blow job. You can see a guy sticking it under my 2/5/11 AZBlogX posting “T-room action” (obviously I can’t show it on this  blog).

The encounter is negotiated beforehand by exchanges of gestures, possibly also with whispers or written notes (on toilet paper). These exchanges establish the sexual roles in the encounter: who sucks who. Mutual encounters — I’ll do you, and then you do me — do occur, but a common pattern is for one man to suck two or three cocks in succession, becoming more and more aroused, until he switches roles and shoots his load in another cocksucker’s mouth.

The ritual allows for entirely anonymous sex; the men can conceal their identities completely. Or if they wish, once roles have been established, they can move on to face-to-face interaction, in one of their stalls or in another location. If it suits them, they can exchange kisses and other gestures of affection (though a fair number of t-room queens will engage in almost any form of mansex but not affection, because they see themselves as straight guys who like sex play with other guys — and therefore don’t kiss, because that would be faggy. The construction of masculinities is a complex matter.).

Once engaged face to face with sexual roles establshed, the men can shift from sucking to fucking, at either man’s instigation.

The basic ritual allows not only for complete anonymity but also for complete emotional opacity: by remaining silent on everything except sexual roles, the men can engage in sex that satisfies them without knowing the motivations, beliefs, or attitudes of their partners — matters that might appall or repel them if they were made explicit.

In any case, though the limbo dancer metaphor is transparent, the terminology seems not to have been adopted as sexual slang. Limbo dancer / dancing / dance aren’t in any slang dictionary I’ve looked at, and searches on limbo dancer plus gay pull up only references to (literal) limbo dancers who are gay.

Meanwhile, I suspect that Roy Reed had no idea that subpartition sex was an actual thing, so that for him limbo dancer was just a colorful big-city joke.

nameless sodomites

March 21, 2018

(There will some be free verse that is flagrantly sacrilegious and violently carnal, and there will be some outrageous art, and, yes, this posting’s about oral and anal sodomy between men, though with a mostly historical and literary cast  — so you might want to exercise your judgment.)

It began with Penn State academic librarian (and my friend) Christopher (Xopher) Walker coming across a Facebook posting that began with the words “nameless sodomites”, which seized his attention. It was a publisher’s blurb for a new book in Italian on men’s sexuality and criminal behavior:

When I searched for the expression, I unearthed a reference (by the Cambridge Medievialist William Burgwinkle) to (Saint) Peter Damian seeing nameless sodomites through the confessional curtain. I then suspected that the phrase might have had some currency as a fixed expression — but in any event it’s a poetically arresting phrase, with the rather antique sodomite paired with an allusion to the medieval custom, in some places, of burning sodomites at the stake after priests had taken anonymous confessions of their mortal sins. Later custom, in the U.K. and the U.S. at least, was for sodomites to be named and shamed in court and then publicly hanged.

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More spent husks

January 3, 2018

In my 12/31 posting “El Bruto commands” there appeared two of my collages on the theme Spent Husks (SH #1 “The Wages of Dissolution” in #2 there, SH #2 “The Lost Boys” in #3 there). The theme of the set is the folk-medical idea that ejaculation is using up, spending, a portion of a finite stock of the essence of masculinity, of male strength; in this view, a man has only some many shots in him, so that frequent masturbation and other sexual activity depletes the stock, eventually reducing a man prematurely to a spent husk, an impotent, desexed shell.

Couple this idea with the belief that gay men are extraordinarily profligate sexually, and you get the view that even young, vital-seeming gay men are just pretty, but rapidly degenerating, husks of humanity. Et in Arcadio ego.

From this spring the SH collages.

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Bromance for Biffs

December 28, 2017

The background, in two previous postings: about the tv show Teen Wolf, two of its central characters (Stiles and Derek, who start out antagonistic towards one another but become friends), the actors who play these characters (Dylan O’Brien and Tyler Hoechlin (pronounced like Hecklin), respectively), Stiles and Derek in Sterek slash fiction and art (where they are lovers / boyfriends), and the real-life (intense but non-sexual) bromance between O’Brien and Hoechlin as Biffs (bffs < best friends forever).


(#1) O’Brien and Hoechlin in a physical Biff moment

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Again, the rowers of Warwick

November 27, 2017

Rebecca Wheeler alerted me to the appearance of this year’s Warwick Rowers‘ calendar, with this image, among others:

Playful decadence, with grapes

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In a bun, in a bun!

November 5, 2017

Today’s Bizarro:

(#1)

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

Hairstyles; baked goods, including buns, rolls, and loaves; buttocks; and of course Monty Python’s lupin(e) bandit Dennis Moore

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The Pink Fellowship

November 3, 2017

(Men from the Pink Fellowship, in very skimpy underwear; racy language. Use your judgment.)

(#1) thong

Nights with pink pouches
Never reaching the end
Offers they’ve flaunted
Never willing to send

Knights with pink pouches
Famous cock teases
Offer their assets
Won’t close the deals

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Another gendered moment in the comics

October 28, 2017

On the 25th it was a Calvin and Hobbes on art by girls vs. boys. Then came this recent One Big Happy, featuring Joe, his dad, and gendered words:

Three beliefs contribute to Joe’s reluctance to deal with sweet and purse as spelling words:

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Ascending and parting

October 13, 2017

Two cartoons from the October 16th New Yorker: a Jason Adam Katzenstein riff on the Ascent of Man cartoon meme and an Emily Flake & Rob Kutner absurdist updating of Rick and Ilsa at the airport:

(#1) “I’m going to e-mail you this op-ed about how your generation is ruining everything.”

(#2) “If you don’t get on that plane…there’s also the 5:43, then the 9:27, but that’s got a layover in Atlanta, then…”

To understand these cartoons, you need a lot of background information, and you also need to recognize the scenes depicted in them: in #1, the Ascent of Man meme; in #2, a specific scene from the 1942 movie Casablanca. (If you don’t know Rick’s passionate speech to Ilsa in that film, #2 might only seem ditheringly silly.)

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Husbands and wives

September 22, 2017

Three veins of spousal humor, starting in the early 19th century and ending in an edgily close-to-life comic stereotype realized in cartoons, tv shows, and movies.

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