Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Magic Mike: The Movie

Spoiler Alert!  In this blog entry, I discuss the movie “Magic Mike”, the film about the lives of a group of strippers based on actor Channing Tatum’s real life experiences.  I’m going to be discussing the end of the film, so if you haven’t seen it and want to, read this blog entry after – and let me know if you agree with my analysis.

For my birthday in July, my sister offered to take me to a movie, and we mutually, enthusiastically agreed upon “Magic Mike”, the movie based on actor/stud Channing Tatum’s real life experiences as a stripper.  I made my sister buy the tickets herself.  Believe it or not, I was afraid that the pimply-faced teen working the ticket counter would laugh at a late thirty-something man coming to ogle Channing Tatum in his stripper movie. 

I liked it – up until the ending, that is.  You see, we’re shown that being a straight stripper is a wild ride.  Money in spades and adoring audiences of women.  But in the mix are some shady characters and the temptation of drugs.  And for our hero Channing Tatum, the wild ride comes to an end when he realizes that the stripper life is a dead-end street. He makes the “right” choice to leave stripping and take up with a “good” girl (read: boring, plain-jane, and button-down).  She is the film’s moral compass, and the film ends up being a morality tale.  Like many a Hollywood film, it at first glorifies the fast-life, then swoops down to make us numb-nuts in the audience remember that we will pay for the error of our ways unless we do the “right” (read: Judeo-Christian) thing.

And it worked on me – for a while.  I went home and thought, Why can’t I meet a gorgeous Channing Tatum look-alike stripper who leaves it all to be with me, so that we can live happily ever after in a house with a white-picket fence?  Then I got to thinking about the real Channing Tatum.  Is he, in life, the morally reborn guy that he becomes in the movie?  By the end of the movie, Channing’s character feels de-sexed.  Does Channing really have a secret kink?  Do he and his wife swing?

To avoid a complete moralization, Matthew McConaughey’s character is given a moment to shine wherein his character shows self-pride by giving a bombastic performance.  But McConaughey’s character is kept one dimensional throughout the movie, thus making it hard for the audience to relate to this odd duck who seems actually proud of his life choices.

Tell me:  what’s more naive?  To believe in the fairy tale that the movie leaves you with as Channing goes with the good girl and leaves all that stripping behind?  Or that you can be a stripper, and feel fulfilled and good about yourself.  Just recently, I read in the local gay magazine that a stripper in my city died recently.  The story skirted around the manner in which he had died, but made note that the bar where he worked and his family wished people to make donations in his name to a suicide hotline.  You don’t have to work in the adult industry to be pushed to suicide, but I can’t help but wonder if we as a society push the adult-industry workers to it when we devalue, degrade, and denigrate them.

How about this novel idea?  Could it be that, as my sister once told me, that no matter which choice you make, there will be consequences.  Will Channing’s character and his “good” girl always lie in a bed of roses, or will there be times when his character secretly misses the excitement of performing?  Is it possible that stripping is indeed fraught with pitfalls, but that they can be avoided?  Because we collectively tell people in adult entertainment that it’s a slippery slope, does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy?  Much like when you treat someone like they’re stupid, they will act stupid?

 Life is never black and white, and the pat, moralistic tone from “Magic Mike” offers no insights into life, which is a messy, contradictory experience.  It still appears that the last thing we want to do is to tell someone that they can be sexually expressive and healthy at the same time.  The only condoned type of sexual expression gets put in a very small narrow box.   I beg to differ.

Other Blogs of Similar Note

Hey all, a quick post to share two blogs that are awesome reading, and similar in content to mine:

Pride and Shame  http://gawker.com/5921415/pride-and-shame-to-pee-on-me-or-not-to-pee-on-me?tag=prideandshame

And my buddy Caligula  http://bachuscaligula.blogspot.ca/2012/07/fleshlightmouth.html?zx=fd5f1d880b19e331

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Strip Club

Here in the Village, we gay men are served by no less than 4 male strip clubs.  This blog is entitled Hunting for Sex, and at a strip club, it’s more like shooting fish in a barrel.  Sex gods everywhere, all contained under one roof.  Up until this week, I’d always gone to strip clubs by myself – to observe and give my attention fully to the experience and to how it made me feel.  Narcissistically, I want to look as good as I possibly can when I go to a strip club.  This means wearing a tank, to show off the muscles, as if to say that I could almost, possibly, if we stretched it, be a stripper myself.  And sometimes I can even pull it off.  There have been a few occasions where I’ve been cruised by the other customers, and even asked if I work there.  For someone else, being mistaken for a stripper would be embarrassing.  For me, the kindest thing you could say.  The other compliment comes when a stripper asks if you’d like a private dance in the back, and when you decline politely, they stick around and chat anyway.  And some of the chats I’ve had with strippers have been amazing, wherein they seemed comfortable to tell me tidbits about their work, whether they were really gay or straight, and some of their own sexual turns ons.  Were they being this open hoping that it would convince me to go for a lap dance, or did they just feel like chatting?  Probably the former, I wish the latter, and in the end, I will never know.

But Jason, didn’t you ever go for a lap dance, you ask?  I sure as hell did!  A handful of times.  But at $20 a song, it’s cost prohibitive, and there are limits to how far you can go.  Lick their pits, feel their chest, touch the cock, but no sucking.  And awkward moments can ensue.  My very first time, I zeroed in on who I thought was the hottest stripper in the bar – muscled, tattooed, shirtless (as they all are).  He came my way, I made sure our eyes connected so he could sense my desire, he did, and asked if I’d like a dance.  Hell yeah, and off we went.  But walking behind him towards the lap-dance area, it already felt false.  This was about my desire and his wallet.  Paying for it already felt like a mood killer and we hadn’t even started.  He was friendly and led me into a booth and closed the curtain.  I sat down and he began to dance suggestively, and encouraged me to touch his torso.  My hands moved up to his nipples which I grabbed and squeezed lightly and he winced.  I let go and he explained he’d just had surgery on his nipples and they were still tender.  What kind of surgery? I asked.  He replied that he had felt his nipples were too large and had had them reduced.  I bit my tongue, since the truth is, I actually prefer large nipples on a man.  To each his own.

But just this week, I went to a strip club with three others.  My sister, newly single, wanted to go for the first time, and so we went on a ladies night, along with my sister’s best friend (who had been on numerous occasions), and my gay friend Don (who’d also never been).

Here’s how things on the stage go:  The stripper comes out, dances and undresses a bit, teasing the crowd, then leaves the stage.  Five minutes later he returns, but with a full hard-on.  And to this, my sister said: “Is that it?  It’s so tame.  But I like the music.”  And tame it is.  But it’s all relative.  In 1950, it would be shocking no doubt, but now, when you can go to a bath house and watch a roomful of guys fisting each other, a mere hard-on by a bored looking, yet gorgeous, man doesn’t pack a lot of punch.  A camera videotaped what was happening on stage and was broadcast in real time on screens around the club, and it appeared that the dancers were watching themselves rather than connecting with the crowd.  My sister’s friend gave my neophyte buddy Don a play-by-play:  “Now he’s going to twirl around the pole three times...now he’s going to lift his arm above his head....now he’s going to slowly caress his crotch...”  She was right everytime.  It was a routine that they all had down, without deviation from said routine.  And Don and I were underserved.  We generally like our men hairy – pits, chest, face, and for me, even the pubes.  But dammit, these men were waxed within an inch of their lives.  Don, never one to keep his mouth shut, would alternately say, at full volume, “This is boring,” followed five minutes later with “God, I need to get laid!”  At first this frustrated me.  I thought, which one is it Don, do you like what you see or don’t you?  Because in spite of it all, I was transfixed.  “Earth to Jason,” I would hear my friends say.  I felt they were missing the one reason why strip clubs exist.

Strip clubs are where you go to worship the beauty of the human male.

These are men who will have surgery on their nipples to look perfect for you.  Beauty is a powerful thing.  The face of Helen of Troy launched a thousand ships.  But I couldn’t help but feel second-class amongst all that beauty.  I could never compete with these gods.  I could never have one of these gods, and if I could, would I even know what to do with him?  Like my friend Don, I vacillated between loving every man who stepped onto the stage, and resenting that he was not really within reach.  Loving his beauty, and wishing it were my own.

On this particular night, the strippers uncharacteristically chatted amongst themselves more than they seemed to chat with the patrons.  My only personal moment with a stripper happened on the way to the bathroom.  The men’s room door was adjacent to the door to the strippers’ backstage area, and as I passed, a stripper exited from backstage with a loud belch.  He then saw me and uttered a quick “Excuse me...”

I wonder if Helen of Troy also burped on occasion?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

People Who Need People: Part 2

Dear Reader, I lied to you.  In my last column “People Who Need People”, I lied to you and I lied to myself.  I related a hook-up I had with Colin, a guy who looked just as hot in reality as in his pics online.  I said that we connected.  I said that the sex was electric.  I said I wanted to see him a second time and that I was going to message him online and see if he was interested in getting together again too.  Well, I did message him – and he never responded.

Here’s the truth about our hook-up.  I knew in some place deep down that he wasn’t as impressed with me as I was with him when we finally met face to face at my door.  There were red flags.  While we sat and talked on my couch, I would find reasons to touch his arm or his leg.  He did not do the same.  When we had chatted on line, he seemed so excited to meet, using lots of exclamation marks in his messages to me.  In person, he was reserved, and withholding.  When the sex happened, it was piggy – we 69’d, we ate each others’ asses, we licked our pits, he let me fuck him.  I chose to believe that he was really into me.  But looking back, I knew better.

I couldn’t tell you the truth about my misgivings in my last post because my ego wanted you to think I was hot shit.  And it got me thinking about “leagues”.  Was Colin ultimately out of my league?  What league am I in?  Am I doomed to only want men who are “out of my league” and therefore unavailable?  If I am totally honest with you (which I will be from now on), I fall somewhere smack dab in the middle with reference to which league I fall into.  If I hit the bar on a Saturday night, I am hit on and ignored by an equal number of men.  But my question is: are our leagues set in stone?  Or is there more to it than meets the eye at first?

I know the answer, and am grateful to have learned this kernel of wisdom which I will share with you now.

Back in 1998, I was the door man at a gay bar near the Rockies.  I’ll never forget the night that I first laid eyes on Corey, a tall blond god, who entered the club with his much-older boyfriend.  He didn’t appear to pay me any mind when he paid his cover charge, and I chalked that up to him being out of my league.  He and his boyfriend came irregularly, and when he paid to enter, there wasn’t a sign that he knew I existed.  Since he had a boyfriend, I let it go.  But when he started to show up alone, I took a chance and engaged him in conversation – and he engaged me back.  I learned he was now single.  I dared to flirt with him and lo and behold, he responded in kind.  By the end of the night, I had his phone number safely tucked into my pocket.

While his attention boosted my self-esteem a million fold, I immediately began to suffer from the “I-wouldn’t-want-to-be-a-member-of-any-club-that-would-have-me-for-a-member” syndrome.  Corey was surprisingly no challenge.  The tables actually turned and I could feel him pursuing me harder than I was pursuing him.  I had not had to ask for his number – he gave it on his own volition.

On our first date a couple of days later, we went to a restaurant.  He proceeded to tell me about his troubles, blaming everyone else and their dog for his problems while appearing to take no responsibility for them himself.  He was self-pitying.  And I panicked.  I could feel my interest in him waning right away.  Even his Hollywood idol looks began to melt before my eyes, and it seemed that the emperor had no clothes.   But I refused to listen to my inner voice because I had wanted him for so long and his attention was supposed to be the panacea for my aching self-doubt.  I refused to listen to my inner voice for four months, while we dated and I tried to keep him on the pedestal I had originally put him on.  When I told him on a park bench one summer night that it was over, I cried harder than he did.  But I also felt relieved.  Corey, however, would show up at the door of the bar with tears running down his cheeks, asking if we could try again, make it work, he loved me so.

So often, I see gorgeous, rich Hollywood couples divorce and I think, if they can’t make it, what hope do we mere mortals have at having a happy relationship.  But this notion that some people are above or below our league is a mirage that can be altered.  When the object of your desire is unavailable, that too is an aphrodisiac.  At first, it looks good on paper.  The Wizard of Oz seemed all powerful, but then Dorothy saw that the Wizard was a fallible man behind a curtain.  But it was then, when her notions of the Wizard were shaken, that she finally found a way home.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

People Who Need People: Part 1

I rarely see a hook-up twice.  We had sex, it was fun (or not), and now I’m done.  But if I want to see a hook-up a second time, it’s likely that I was so attracted that I feel I could, if the stars align themselves properly, fall head over heels for the guy.  If I’m still thinking about you after you’ve left to catch your cab home, I could be in danger – in danger of what?  Needing someone.

Barbra Streisand sang that people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.  I beg to differ (but don’t tell Barbra).  The relationship that sustains me is the one I’m having with myself, and I like it that way.  But is it possible that even loners like me are susceptible to love?  I’ve know love before, twice, once in my teens and then in my early twenties.  The love was not returned to me in kind, and I vowed never to put myself through the wringer like that again.  But am I impeding my growth as a soul by denying that love can still happen to me?

For all my experience in the game of sex and hook-ups, I am deeply upset when, after a hook-up, the guy wants more and I don’t.  I never know how to decline graciously and end up saying of lot of bullshit, like “Well, I’m getting busier at work, but I’ll let you know if I have free time...”.  And then I avoid him, hoping that he’ll just give up on me.  I would be wise to be more authentic and spell it out at the start, stating my M.O. right away before anyone gets hurt.  Part of my resistance to doing so lay in my desire to keep my options open – what if I do wish to see a guy a second time?  Why close doors before they are even opened?

Last night, Colin came over, and he lived up to his sexy online profile completely.  We talked and laughed for an hour and a half, and then got down to sex, which felt electric.  That almost never happens, where the connection feels good on all levels.  I know that I’m hooked when I’m not just thinking about sex with a guy, but with seeing him puttering in our garden in the backyard of our country estate.  I know I’m hooked when I imagine him crying over the death of a beloved and I’m the only one who can really comfort him.  That’s the calibre of my fantasies.  And today, I’m having those fantasies about Colin. 

Here’s my plan, tell me what you think:  I’m going to go on gay411 where we met two weeks ago and message him.  Here’s what I plan to say: “Hey Colin, thanks for coming over last night, it was great!  I hope you got home safe.  If you’re open to it, you’re welcome to come over again sometime for some more whisky and I might even make you some bacon <smile>.”  The bacon reference is an inside joke, but this is no laughing matter.  What if I am dealing with a version of myself?  What if Colin had sex with me and is, well, frankly, done?

The fear that Colin is done with me is a fear of the ego.   When a man I like and admire and wish to pursue isn’t interested, I am beset with self-doubt and self-loathing.  I decide it’s because I don’t have a flat enough stomach, that I’m not masculine enough, that I’m boring.  But could it be that attraction goes beyond those superficial things and is more about what the “soul” needs at that given moment in time?  But when I fell in love those two times many eons ago, why did my “soul” feel the need to bond with those men, but their “souls” evidently did not require the same?  Is this a cosmic joke being played on us?  What are we to learn from rejection?  Barbra, needing people seems fine and dandy when the sentiment is returned, but when it isn’t, it’s a bitch.

Here’s where I’ll relent a little to Barbra’s refrain.  I’m recognizing that there comes a point where being so self-sufficient, like any good thing, can be taken too far.  Whether I like it or not, I do need people, I do need men.  Why else do I go online or go to the bars looking for sex?  It’s to feel alive.  It’s to feel awake in my body.  But what other parts of me exist that need to be awakened?  Is it possible that my self-sufficiency has also frozen my heart in ice, a heart that needs to be melted?  If sex brings rich rewards to the body, what heart rewards might I be missing out on? 

I’m afraid of the mess and mud of a relationship, but life is meant to be lived, sometimes regardless of the emotional risk.  What I like is that if it all falls flat, if my sentimental feelings are not returned in kind, I’ve created a safe place to land - within.  The only rejection worth fearing is a rejection of self.  So, here goes.  Let’s see what Colin is up to next weekend.