Dec 20, 2014

Gay Fan Art 2: Invader Zim

Invader Zim lasted for only a season and a half on Nickelodeon (2001-2002) before it was cancelled due to low ratings.  But it got a new life through internet downloads and DVD sales, and later it was successfully rebroadcast on Nicktoons.

The premise: Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) is an incompetent alien warrior sent, as punishment, to scout out the inconsequential backwater of Earth.  Since he is a child, he enrolls in elementary school, where the outcast human boy Dib (Andy Berman) suspects his secret.

One would suspect that the two antagonists would eventually learn to trust and support each other, but in fact that never happens.  Zim never waivers in his bombastic "We will enslave you all!" contempt of humans.  He forms alliances with Dib only when it is essential for his purposes, and then quickly and easily betrays him.  And Dib never grows to like or respect the alien; in fact, he takes great pains to torment him.

Thus, no gay subtexts between the two.  No beefcake.  No nothing.

Still, fans went wild, conjuring image after image of the duo (usually aged to adolescence or adulthood) hugging, kissing, cuddling on a couch, sharing an apartment.

In the top picture, a fully-nude Dib opens his bedroom door to display Zib sleeping peacefully after a night of passion.  It originally featured a very nice full frontal shot.

Here they just hug.

Sometimes the antagonism is retained. One captures and tortures or sexually assaults the other.

But even that is usually cast as a consensual S&M scene, willingly giving and taking power.

I'm not sure why, but antagonists always inspire much more gay fan art than buddies.

(Original pictures from the artists on

See also: Gay Fan Art #1: Max Goof.; and Gay Fan Art #3: Beast Boy

Dec 18, 2014

The Truth About the Formosan Penis

My doctoral program in New York (1997-2001) was not only about studying sexuality.  I spent a lot of time seeking out ethnic groups with legendary penises:

The Basque, reputedly the largest in the world.

The Bushman, reputedly always in a tumescent state.

And the Formosan of Taiwan.

When I first moved to New York in 1997, I had to live in a grad student apartment, where I was assigned 3 roommates: Max, the most obnoxious guy on the planet; a beefy Turkish guy who mostly kept to himself; and a Taiwanese guy named Huang, who also happened to be a fellow grad student in the Sociology Department.

Huang was not nearly as muscular as Max, but also not as obnoxious.  His only faults: he occasionally had a girl over to giggle in his bedroom, and he called his family back home every Saturday at 4:00 am.

In each case I could hear him quite clearly through the wall.

My Mandarin was limited to Wǒ xǐhuān zhōngguó rén, "I like Chinese men,"  but at least I could recognize the language.  And when Huang spoke to his family, he wasn't speaking Mandarin.

Turns out that he was fluent in Mandarin (and Hokkien, French, and English), but his native language was Paiwan, from the Formosan family, related the Tagalog of the Philippines and the Javanese of Indonesia.

There are about 400,000 Formosan aboriginals in Taiwan, about 2% of the population, mostly living in the mountainous south.

"We get discrimination," Huang told me.  "The Chinese think yuánzhùmín are uncivilized, barbarians.  Like the Indians in America."

There are statues of muscular, half naked Formosans all over Taiwan, like the statues of Native Americans in the U.S.

The Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Park in Yuchi, about 150 miles south of Taipei, invites Chinese tourists to see aboriginals performing traditional arts and native dances, like the pow wows in the U.S.

"But the Chinese woman like us," Huang added with a grin.

"Oh, why is that?"

"Yuánzhùmín men are bigger than Chinese men." He pointed to his crotch.  "Dá jībā!"  Apparently that meant big penis.  

I reddened, shocked that a straight guy would be comfortable enough to discuss his penis size with me.   Or maybe he was bisexual, and expressing interest.  "Well -- I'm sure some of the Chinese men like Formosan dá jībā, too."

"No, they are jealous."

Not bisexual!

"When you tell a woman you are yuánzhùmín," Huang continued, "She always ask if the stories are true, and she want to see it."

"Well - are the stories true?"  I asked.  "Can I see it?"

"No, no, not for gays." He giggled. "Just for women."

I'm not usually deterred so easily, but after Huang's startling display of confidence, I felt guilty about plotting any complex schemes to get a glimpse of his jībā.  

Maybe I could see it by accident?

No -- he didn't go to the gym, and he didn't strut around the apartment in a towel.

In January 1998 I moved out of graduate student housing to a place in Manhattan, and lost hope of ever finding out if the stories about Formosan men are true.

But my hope was restored in July, shortly after I returned from my trip to Estonia with Yuri and Jaan.  Some of the sociology students drove up to Montreal for the International Sociological Association World Congress, and Huang and I shared a hotel room.

Surely he would change clothes in front of me, or sleep in revealing briefs.

No -- he changed clothes in the bathroom, and slept in pajama bottoms.  Not even a bulge was visible!

One night I was planning to go to the Keynote Speech, then "out" (actually to the Oasis, where I met the Muscle God and his Wingman).  I told Huang I would not be back until after midnight.

But after the Keynote Speech, I realized that I had left my jacket in the hotel room -- it was rather chilly in Montreal -- and rushed back upstairs.

I slid the key card through the slot and pulled the door open.

The first thing I noticed was cheesy 1970s music.

The second was the heterosexual porn playing on the tv.

The third was Huang lying on his bed, naked, doing what heterosexual men do when they watch porn.

He yelled and pulled the covers over himself.  But he was still tenting.

"I forgot my jacket," I said, stepping forward to grab it from the coat rack.

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry....I thought you are not coming back until very late."

"Don't worry about it.  By the way, you're right -- it really is a dá jībā."

I'm certainly not going to make a joke about Huang and hung, but he was.

See also: The Biggest and Smallest Penises in the world; and Wing Man for a Muscle God.

American Horror Story: Gay World

The anthology series American Horror Story is a hit in gay communities.  It's stylish, witty, adequately creepy -- and gay inclusive, a rarity in horror tv.   Here's my rating of the gay content of the first four seasons: beefcake, buddy-bonding, gay characters, and gay symbolism.  Scale of 1 (terrible) to 5 (excellent).

Season 1: Murder House (2011)

A family moves into a house overrun by the ghosts of previous residents.  Interesting twist: ghosts can become corporeal, with bodies indistinguishable from those of the living.
Beefcake: lots of muscular chests and backsides.  These ghosts get naked a lot.
Buddy Bonding: Troubled teen Tate (Evan Peters) seems to have a little thing for the troubled psychiatrist (Dylan McDermott).
Gay Characters: Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears play a bickering gay couple who were planning to split up.  Then they were murdered in the house, and now they are stuck together for all eternity.  The other ghosts and humans are generally nonchalant about them.
Gay Symbolism: None.
Overall Rating: ****

Season 2: Asylum (2012)

An evil nun runs a creepy asylum for the criminally insane in the 1960s.  With demons, Anne Frank, and alien abductions.
Beefcake:  Not much.  Evan Peters as an alien abductee.
Buddy Bonding: None.  Again, all of the significant friendships are male-female.
Gay Characters: Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters, a lesbian reporter committed to the asylum and forced to undergo a homophobic "treatment" regiment.  In the present, she's a famous writer, out-and-proud.
Gay Symbolism: None.
Overall Rating: ****

Season 3: Coven (2013)

A school for teen witches, a voodoo queen, and the re-animated corpse of 19th century murderess Delphine LaLaurie.  What more could you ask for?  Maybe some gay characters?
Beefcake: Lots.  Madame LaLaurie had a thing for torturing hunky male slaves, and the teen witches build themselves a Frankenstein-monster boyfriend (Evan Peters again).
Buddy Bonding: Some female bonding going on.
Gay Characters: None, except for a fruity Truman Capote-esque member of the Witches Council, who appears briefly in two episodes.
Gay Symbolism:  Witches hiding in the shadows, afraid to let anyone know their true identity, etc., etc.
Overall Rating: ***

Season 4: Freak Show (2014)
A financially-strapped freak show in 1950s Florida, with a murderous clown and his dapper young apprentice wandering around.
Beefcake:  Evan Peters again, the bare buns of a Viking Hustler, a circus strongman, and an amazing bodybuilding little person (his name is Kyle Pacek).
Buddy Bonding: Men are mostly competitors.
Gay Characters: Several.  But for a change, Dandy, the ultra-feminine murderer, is not.
Gay Symbolism: Freaks hiding in the shadows, et., etc.
Overall Rating: *****

Dec 17, 2014

Fetish 101: The Truth About Being into Feet, Feathers, Balloons, or Cake

What do you find most attractive about this guy?
A. His basket
B. His biceps
C. His shoes

If you said B, you have partialism, an erotic interest in parts of the human body other than the sex organs.

Like biceps, feet, elbows, shoulders, backsides, and women's breasts.

If you said C, you have a fetish, an erotic interest in an object other than the human body.

Like shoes, boots, leather jackets, baseball caps, cigars, feathers,  underwear, crutches, balloons, cake, jello, mud, urine, and bubbles.

The list is endless.  Nearly everybody has some partialism and fetishes.

And some paraphilias, erotic interest in activities that don't necessarily involve contact with the sex organs.

Like bondage, BDSM, voyeurism (watching other people), exhibitionism (having other people watch you), wearing diapers, smoking, coughing, being lifted, being tickled, saying bad words...

Again, the list is endless.

There are four main theories about how we got our fetishes.

1. Imprinting.  Our earliest erotic thoughts are indelibly linked with the situation they occurred in.  Even incidental details become erotic.  If, for instance, you first liked a guy who happened to be smoking a cigar, you'll have an erotic interest in cigars forever.

Or cigar boxes.  Or just the tips of cigars.  Or having smoke blown into your face.

2. Gender Symbolism.  The object or situation is aggressively masculine or feminine, distilling the "essence" of what it means to be male or female.  You don't just like shoes in general, you like black leather boots or red stiletto heels.  You don't like just any article of clothing, you like gym socks and jock straps or brassieres and red lace panties.

3. Dirty/Forbidden. We grow up being told that sex acts are unclean, that erotic books and magazines are "dirty."  So we associate the erotic with acts or objects regarded as unclean, like feet, mud, urine, and bad words.

4. Power/Control.  Sex acts are always about getting or giving up control, one partner submitting to the other.  So we associate the erotic with acts or objects that involve explicit control, like police uniforms or daddy-son scenes.

Pop quiz:  Why do people find it erotic to get or give wedgies?
A. First experience
B. Gender symbolism
C. Dirty/forbidden
D. Power/control

Answer: Could be any or all of the above.

Psychiatrists used to think that fetishes, paraphilias, and partialism were invariably destructive, perversions of the "sexual instinct."

The psychiatric consensus now is that they're fine, as long as they aren't your only erotic interest, so you should enjoy "real sex" too.

But really, I don't see why anyone should care.  If you are happy with erotic acts involving feet or feathers, or being called bad names, or getting soda spilled on you, how will switching to penises make you happier, more fulfilled, or a better person?

There are only two problems with fetishes and paraphilias:

1. They're very specific.  You don't just want to be tied up, you want to be tied to a tree with gold-colored ropes, with your hands over your head, and a gold scarf used as a gag.

It;s difficult to orchestrate such precise situations, so you might have to settle for almost right, or resign yourself to many nights without passion.

2. It's hard to find Mr. Right.  Potential partners are usually either attractive but not into it, or into it but not attractive.  I suggest going with the latter.  Nothing is more boring than a partner who is just "putting up" with your fetish.

And if he is actually into having stir-fried vegetables eaten off his stomach while he's wearing a Ninja Turtle costume, who cares if he has muscles?

See also: Finding Larry's Fetish; and The Secretary: The Bottom Always Calls the Shots

Fall 1974: A Naked Man for Christmas

When I was a kid in Rock Island, Illinois, we had a number of local celebrities, like jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke, poet Carl Sandburg, and sculptor Isabel Bloom.

Born Isabel Scherer in 1908, she grew up in Davenport and studied at Grant Wood's Stone City Art Colony, where she met and married fellow artist John Bloom.  In the 1950s, she began producing distinctive sculptures carved out of Mississippi River stone or molded of mud mixed with concrete.  

They were absolutely atrocious. Angels, fairies, hugging children, mothers hugging babies, cats, doves, bridal couples, snowmen, Santa Clauses, the most maudlin, sentimental, and heteronormative dreck ever imagined.

But everyone in the Quad Cities loved them.  There were at least two or three in every living room; dozens more were forced upon out-of-town relatives as Christmas presents, or shoved into the hands of unsuspecting visitors as Quad Cities souvenirs.

So I should have anticipated what would happen.

I had just discovered Greek art -- rather, statues of muscular Greek gods, so for Christmas in 1974, when I was in 9th grade, I asked for "a statue."  

I meant a desk-sized statue of a naked Apollo from Greek mythology, but instead my Dad said, "Sure -- let's go down to Isabel Bloom's, and you can pick out the one you want."

I couldn't tell him "No, no...I wanted a naked Greek god, not some stupid boy holding a frog!", so my boyfriend Dan and I had to fake-grin our way through a mid-December visit to the crowded studio in the Village of West Davenport, as we sorted through Angel with Wreath, Unconditional Love, Lovebirds, Boy with Flag...

Eventually Dan wandered off, but my torture continued: Girl with Pumpkin, Newlyweds, Boy Offering Girl Flowers, Baby in Crib, Sleeping Cat...  

Then Dan came running excitedly from a side studio.  "Hey, what about this one?"  It was a nude male figure, seated, his arms around his knees.   Stylized, not muscular, but a heck of a lot better than the other stuff.

John's Thinker,  he read from the bottom. 

"Must be a statue of her husband, John Bloom," I said, carefully taking it from his hands.  It felt warm to the touch.  It was thrilling to think that I might be holding an exact likeness of a real naked man.

John and Isabel Bloom

"No, she didn't do this statue, her husband did," Dad said, frowning.  "It's not a real Isabel Bloom."

"Well, I want it anyway."

He looked at me oddly.  "There's lots nicer ones.  How about First Kiss?"  He held out a statue of a little boy kissing an embarrassed little girl on the cheek.

"I don't want any statues of girls."

"It's a boy and a girl.  That's like two statues for the price of one!"

Was he objecting to the price of John's Thinker?  No, First Kiss cost twice as much.  "This one's cheaper."  

" could use it as a kind of model, you know.  When you want a girl to let you kiss her, just show her the statue."

"Gross!" Dan exclaimed.

"When you discover girls, I mean."

"John's Thinker, please," I said firmly.

Dad shrugged.  "Well, if you're sure that's the one you want.  But I don't know what you're going to do with it, Skeezix."  Later I figured out that he always called me Skeezix, after a character in the old Gasoline Alley comic strip, when I expressed same-sex desire, something bizarre and beyond imagining at the time.

I still have the statue.

Recently I did some research into the work of John Bloom.  He was apparently heterosexual, married to Isabel from 1938 until his death in 2002 (but then, he lived for several years in a converted ice truck with the gay artist Grant Wood).

His paintings and drawings return again and again to images of male friendship and camaraderie. 

There aren't many male nudes, but one was enough on that long-ago winter day.

Dec 16, 2014

What's the Gay Connection in "The Sound of Music"?

When I was living in West Hollywood, people kept saying things like:
"I can't go out tonight -- The Sound of Music is on!"
"Which Sound of Music character are you?"
"The Sound of Music is playing at the community theater.  We have to go!"

I have never seen it all the way through.  It gives me bad vibes.

It's my fourth grade teacher's fault.  She told us about Anne Frank and The Sound of Music at the same time, and I got them mixed up, thinking that the musical ended with everyone dying in a concentration camp.

When I used to hear the songs, they gave me a frisson of dread, since I thought they were being sung by the prisoners at Auschwitz.

But even without the horror, they made no sense.  Look at "Do, Re, Mi":

Far, a long, long way to run.  It's  pronounced far, not fahhhh.

Ti, a drink with jam and bread.  Who drinks tea with jam and bread?  For that matter, what the heck is jam?

Or "My Favorite Things"
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels.  Ponies don't come in cream colors, and strudel is a soft pastry, not crisp.

When the dog bites -- when the bee stings.  If a dog bites you, thinking of "favorite things" wouldn't help -- you need a rabies shot. And why would you feel sad when bitten or stung?  It's not sad, it's painful.

"Oh, no," everyone kept telling me.  "It's the greatest musical of all time!  And the gayest!"

So I've been looking for the gay connection.

Not in the plot: it's just a "servant inspires joie de vivre in disfunctional family" story, done to death on tv: Hazel, Charles in Charge, Mr. Belvedere, Give me a Break, The Nanny.  Here the nanny is future nun Maria (Julie Andrews), and the family belongs to the stern Captain Von Trapp of the Austrian army (Christopher Plummer).  After they learn joie de vivre, the family hits it big as professional singers, and finally they escape from the Nazis by climbing over the hillside into Switzerland.

There is no beefcake or buddy-bonding.

There are no gay or gay-vague characters, except maybe Max Detweiler, who becomes the children's agent.

 In 1965 he was played by Richard Haydn, who was gay in real life.  This scene does not appear in the movie.

Maybe there's a gay connection in the cast?

Julie Andrews, of course, went on to play a woman disguised as a drag queen in Victor/Victoria (1982).

Christopher Plummer  won an Academy Award at the age of 82, for playing a gay man who comes out after retirement in Beginners (2010).  In the top photo, he seems to be having a little loincloth malfunction in The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969).

Nicholas Hammond (left), one of the two boys in Von Trapp's mostly female family, played Spider-Man on tv (1977-78), where he displayed a respectable bulge.  He was married for only four years, and is rumored to be gay.

Not a lot of gay connection there.

What about the real life Von Trapp Family, lead by patriarch Georg Ritter Von Trapp (1888-1947)?  Ok, they were professional singers long before they met Maria, and they were Italian citizens who didn't need to escape Germany -- they just bought train tickets.  After the War, they opened a lodge in Stowe, Vermont.  

Most of the kids eventually married, although Agathe may have been gay: she ran a kindergarten with her "friend of 50 years," Mary Louise Kane.

Still not a lot of gay connection.

The Sound of Music Live! (2013) starred Carrie Underwood as Maria and Stephen Moyer (left) as Captain Von Trapp, Christian Borle (second photo), who plays a lot of gay characters, made his Max Detweiler as gay-vague as possible.

Not much there, either.

So the gay connection of The Sound of Music consists mostly of bulges?

See also: Charles in Charge; Mr. Belvedere; My Fair Lady.

Dec 15, 2014

Jose Pablo Cantilo: Walking Dead Beefcake

We've been watching The Walking Dead, a postapocalyptic zombie tv series.  It's aggressively heterosexist, eliminating or "straightening out" characters who were gay in the original comic book series, forcing you to depend on subtexts.

It also eliminates every romance between characters who are over 40, and almost every interracial romance.  What is this, Lost?

But it does offer a lot of beefcake.  Like this stunning sight, a muscleman fighting as a form of evening entertainment in colony of survivors.

He's Martinez, one of the allies of the mysterious Governor, who later becomes the leader of his own band of refugees.  No heterosexual romances during his 13-episode run, so maybe he's gay.

The actor is Jose Pablo Cantilo, born in 1979 in Marshfield, Wisconsin, on screen since 2003, mostly playing gangsters and thugs.

This seems to be the fate of most Hispanic actors in Hollywood; according to one study, over 60% of Hispanic tv characters are "immoral" or "despicable," as opposed to 33% of black and 12% of white characters.

But Cantilo has managed to break out of the mold a few times.  He played Marco, who has a one-night stand with a hooker in the relationship comedy After Sex (2007).  

And in Virtuality (2009), a tv movie about a killer loose on a deep-space probe, he played Manny, half of a gay couple, with Gene Farber's Val.   As far as I can recall, they were the first gay non-villains in any American science fiction movie.

It was a pilot for a tv series that didn't get picked up.

Today Cantilo spends most of his time going to Walking Dead fan conventions.  He is a gay ally, and an ally of Emma Watson's "He for She" campaign for gender equality.

See also: The Walking Dead