Thursday, May 29, 2003

The other day I revisited LTHR EDGE's webpage. I can't remember how I first found out about this one, but it's long been a favorite spot to check out. I find it incredibly sexy, not just because of its content -- which is certainly hot enough if you're looking for kinky pictures and stories -- but especially thanks to its design. It looks great (black & white, nice fonts, ample white space), and it's so much more than just a collection of words and images to jerk off to. Among other things, it's a treasure trove of information and ideas about leathersex, which will at least get you thinking, whether you always agree with the author or not. So let's just say I find it a turn-on on both the aesthetic and the erotic level.

Anyway, on my most recent visit after a prolonged absence I noticed that "Edge" is actively encouraging leathermen and other kinky folks of varying genders and sexualities to start blogging. In addition to a page of links and how-to-blog advice on his own site, he and a few cohorts have launched a project called "100 Bloggers," the goal of which is to get 100 newbies to start keeping weblogs by Pride Weekend 2003. He spells out his reasons eloquently, and while there are too many to repeat in this space, I'll simply quote a few relevant ones below and refer you to the page dedicated to answering the question "Why?" for the rest:

*"A new generation needs mentoring. Every day, horny young people find the Web and discover that their vague fantasies of leather are realized in a million ways in a million webpages. Blogging records the real lives of real leathermen so that those young leatherfolk can find out what it's really like to be a leatherperson. Think of it this way: someone, sometime, somewhere helped you. Now it's your turn. And all it takes is for you to talk about your life."

*"No one should feel alone. I imagine it's happened to all of us at some time or another: you imagine that NO ONE could be feeling the way you feel, desiring the things you desire, experiencing the things you experience. That sense of isolation is antithetical to the very concept of community. In creating blogs, we leave behind places and spaces for others to come along and see themselves and realize they're NOT alone."

*"YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER. The biggest reason to blog is because you have something to offer, even though you may not think you do. You're a part of this community, and your thoughts, experiences, insights, and feelings are not just valid but valuable. ..."

All of these remind me of my own motivations for starting "Heroes & Villains" (just a few days too early to be included in the 100, though I'm listed as one of the "already converted"). I'm not totally sure I agree with a couple of Edge's other encouragements--that there's no need to be a good writer so long as you remain true to your experience, for instance--because I really don't think the world needs another outlet for badly executed, self-possessed literature. I mean, we've already got high school poetry, zines, several strains of performance art, memoirs, mediocre singer-songwriters, and the films of Kevin Costner, for starters, and during the brief lifespan of blogging I've come across far too many online lists of what people ate, cut-and-pasted song lyrics, and bitch sessions about how much somebody hates his/her job/boyfriend/family, and so on. And it troubles me that the most frequently used word on most blogs (including this one) is "I." On the other hand, I do believe on some fundamental level that our stories -- when told well -- have meaning, not only for ourselves but for the people around us. (That "we" includes everybody, not just queers and kink enthusiasts, though lesser-told tales often have the greatest impact.) As I've said a million times before, if only the internet had existed when I was in high school in a fairly small town, feeling isolated and freakish for the way my dick was behaving, maybe I could have spared myself a decade or three of self-loathing and jumped right into the good stuff.

So, whoever and wherever you are, I, too, encourage you to check out the how-to resources at "100 Bloggers" and consider starting a weblog of your own if you haven't already. If you do, please let me know about it. I've already had a wonderful time exploring the thoughts of total strangers/fellow travelers via such blogs as Singletails, Leather Adventures, Bound and Determined, Leather Egg, and of course Edge's own "Edge Diaries" -- all of which feature interesting writing about kinks of various kinds, many with a focus on politics and spirituality, much like I'm aiming for here. I already know I'm not alone, but it's nice to get a better sense of just who my new neighbors are.

Monday, May 26, 2003

(An entry in honor of Memorial Day:)

The change of season always throws me. I love reasonably warm, sunshine-filled days as much as anybody, but my fantasies tend to be dark (in more ways than one) and prone to fulfillment in the middle of the night. Some of the happiest, most relaxed and contented hours of my life have been those I've spent in full bat or cop regalia in the deepest reaches of my basement, far from windows which would let me know whether or not the sun has risen again. In a perfect world, I'd stay down there in my makeshift batcave for days on end (and I sometimes have) -- but then there's another side of me that either wants or needs to re-enter the daylight world, a transition which pretty much requires that I cast aside the black lycra/rubber/leather armor and resume my public identity.

And that's why god made biking and exercise culture, I'm convinced. I was ecstatic when spandex hit the mainstream exercise world in the 80s -- I was never one for the gym before that, but eventually my love for the outfits led me (in a halting way, strictly on my own terms) to the workout lifestyle. It dawned on me sometime in the late 90s that since I'd been raiding sports stores for years in search of batsuit items to wear in secret, I might as well adopt some of them in my Bruce Wayne existence. So it is that I'm sitting at this very moment in lycra cycling shorts, having cast aside my tight-fitting, leather-palmed bike gloves and waist-hugging fanny pack (a poor but serviceable replacement utility/duty belt) after a long, satisfying ride. It's my way of walking in two worlds at once: I can appear in public (still a bit shyly) in socially acceptable attire, which also constitutes a daytime version of my favorite nightwear. All I lack is a lycra top that doesn't call attention to my ever-expanding gut.

I don't exactly have the physique to pull this stuff off convincingly, but I don't really care. Years ago, a leatherman friend of mine pointed at a middle-aged shlub in form-fitting tights jogging down the sidewalk and clucked, "Some people just weren't born to wear spandex." I'm not sure I agree. We don't all look like superheroes (or supervillains), but that shouldn't stop us from acting like them any time we please. One of the things I like most about leather bar culture is that the clientele appears to be considerably less body-obsessed than the rest of gay male society. Maybe that's just an illusion (bear lovers can be just as fixated on flab and fur as twink afficianadoes are hung up on abs and hairless chests), but if so I'm maintaining the myth as long as I can. While I've seen my fair share of greek gods in bars with names like The Eagle and The Lure, I've also seen guys with beer bellies, nerds, men in their sixties, and more than a few people with visible disabilities.

Online lycra fetish forums (of the sort you can find here) invariably include discussions about how intimidating it is to wear the stuff in public. Part of me feels like, "Come on guys, get over it: You're not talking about capes and masks or harnesses and chaps, but stuff that was always intended to be seen and worn in broad daylight in middle America. If you didn't feel the erotic charge, you probably wouldn't think twice about dressing this way." But when I'm honest with myself, I realize that I experience that same self-consciousness all the same, as if my secret alter ego is about to be uncovered if I hop on my bike in black cycling shorts or jog around the block in tights. This stuff carries a baggage for me -- and my kinky brothers and sisters -- it simply doesn't carry for other people. And that's part of the appeal.

Come to think of it, I've also received my fair share of taunts yelled from passing cars and asshole adolescents for the way I'm dressed. A couple have even tossed out semi-incoherent references to Batman and his ilk. It's another aspect of the masked superhero mythos that fascinates me: the costumed crimefighter's insistence on adopting a guise that makes him (or her) a figure of fun. Batman says his get-up is intended to strike fear into the hearts of criminals ("a cowardly, superstitious lot"), but in reality it's far more likely to make him a target for rednecks. It's a disguise which both conceals its wearer's identity and proclaims it to the world.

More to be said on that last point later. For now, it's time to shed the shorts and slip back into street clothes for a few hours. Such is life: one costume change after another.

Friday, May 23, 2003

A random websearch the other day reminded me that I wanted to mention the essay "The Problem With Batman's Crotch" here, but I couldn't remember where to find it. So just now I did a new Google search for the phrase "Batman's crotch," which I hoped would yield all sorts of exciting treasures hitherto unknown to me, but no such luck. Okay, I did come across a site paying tribute to Catwoman which is packed with plenty of stills certain to titillate batfans of all genders and persuasions, plus a bit of fan fiction written by a pee fetishist (though I'm pretty sure I've seen that one before). Oh, and exploring the "Crotch Problem" essay somehow led me to another of those omnipresent web quizzes, this one designed to answer the question "Which Superhero Are You?" (Evidently I'm Superman -- there it is again! -- though I blame that on my choice to spread the word about donating to an animal shelter in one question, because when I retook the poll and opted to remain anonymous, I turned out to be Spider-Man.) (Can you tell yet that I'm avoiding doing any actual work this evening?)

But back to Batman's crotch. It's a smart and funny little essay about an issue most straight fans (I presume the author is hetero) don't dare touch--how to handle (all puns intentional so far) the midsection of the superhero. I've always been a little baffled about that extra pair of briefs atop the tights on Batman and Superman and many of their costumed cohorts. Not that I'm complaining, mind you: the more lycra, the better, I say. But when I started assembling my own outfit, I wondered what the purpose of the additional material was. I'll leave you to read Michael Hutchison's theories for yourself and just say that after much personal exploration I think it has something to do with modesty and aesthetics, something to do with protection (mighty delicate equipment down there), and finally it provides an additional hiding/storage place for supplies. On the other hand, the briefs mean one more layer to be removed when it's finally time to disrobe for one reason or another. (Which reminds me of a fetish-friend's fan fic about a sex scene explaining how Batman accesses the batcock when he needs to pee or wants to poke Robin--I think a zipper was concealed beneath the briefs.) (Another urine reference! I promise you: the bladder is not my scene... although anything crotch-related has got potential.)

The rubber suit from the movies, like a short-lived outfit in the comics, lacked the briefs, and I like the all-black look almost as much as its classic grey-and-blue predecessor. But when I've tried eliminating the trunks from my own (black) suit, I've just felt ... naked.

There you have it: everything I can possibly think of to say about batbriefs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Read another Tagame story today, this one called "Jujitsu Kyoshi" (aka "The Judo Master") via the Yahoo group "Woody's Tagame Scans." No cops this time, but still incredibly hot and hairy. The group moderator -- Woody -- posts the following comments about the story in group message #291, which I'm excerpting here (without his permission, but trying to give credit where credit is due). I'll give you his plot synopsis first so you'll have some idea of the territory if you don't know the artist's work, but the part I'm most interested (re race/ethnicity and sexuality) comes after that so I'll italicize it:

"The first part seems to involve our protagonist seeing something on a television that starts him reminiscing (erotically) about a past encounter, only to later run into one of the perpetrators of the sexual humiliation that resulted from that encounter, who then seems to set him up to be kidnapped into sexual slavery, where after his training is complete (at some later date - and I presume at the request of his master) he then writes back to the perpetrator of his kidnapping to tell him of what has happened and how he likes his new life as a sex slave, only now we find our perpetrator regrets his actions and remembers fondly the good times they'd shared back when he was his Judo Master. [...]

"In the second half of the story, note the use of a grey haired (presumably American) black man as the Trainer/Master that our protagonist (who also as per usual, is well muscled, hunky and very un-Japanese looking) is enslaved by - another marker pointing to the sorts of racial conflict sprinkled through much of Tagame's work. Also note this is another story where the protagonist is the big butch alpha male type that is eventually reduced to the docile sex toy for the amusement of others.

"As I've said before, none of these themes are accidental in Tagame's works--and the undercurrents of humiliation & degradation of what would typically (to those that know Japanese culture - I don't claim to be one of those people) be a figure of unshakeable authority are designed to show the sort of eroticism that is especially powerful in these eastern cultures.

Woody's comments provide so much food for thought for me that I don't know where to begin. I do know that the Tagame stories I've seen so far are light years away from most of the Japanese visual style I've come across elsewhere: wispy, androgynous faery-boys with feminine eyes and bangs and wings and crap like that, which holds zero appeal for me on any level, aesthetic, erotic, or otherwise. Tagame's men are big and burly and clearly Anglo-looking; they exude authority, and it really gets me hard to see them humbled and literally brought to their knees. (He's been called "The Tom of Finland of Japan" -- but shouldn't that be just "Tom of Japan"?) Until I read Woody's remarks, I hadn't connected the imagery and storylines with Japanese attitudes about power and control -- though I should also say that I think of those attitudes as mighty close to my own. In real life I am fairly meek, more prone to obeying the law than breaking it (except in cases of civil disobedience), intimidated by cops, etc -- but in my fantasies the tables are turned. Sometimes, that is.

I also can't help connecting Tagame's storylines with fascism, and my mind leaps from Japan to Germany, another culture with its own rather intense connection to power. (I'm sure there's some kind of subtext in the story about American soldiers occupying Japan after WWII, to say nothing of the black master overpowering and dominating the white ex-master -- it's one huge struggle for dominance!) I'm not proud of the way I get a little woozy at the image of jackboots and Nazi uniforms and the like -- particularly since I realize I'd have been a prime candidate for the pink triangle and probably the ovens -- but I have to acknowledge the attraction even as I abhor its real-life manifestations. Sure, sure, I know all about eroticizing the oppressor, although I must point out that in my own lifetime I haven't been particularly oppressed by government-sponsored goon squads. (Not yet, at least--though I gotta say it looks more and more like we're heading in that direction. But I digress yet again...)

Speaking of eroticizing oppressors: if you buy that line, then how come I don't find the Taliban the least bit sexy? They were/are every bit as homophobic and authoritarian as the Third Reich, but they leave me stone cold on the fantasy front. I blame the lousy fashion sense. (Saddam, on the other hand, has/had better taste in uniforms and a bulky hairy body that cries out to be hogtied and shoved into a toilet by a Tagame torturer...)

Okay,THIS is why this journal must remain anonymous--there's no way I could say any of this out loud under my own name!

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Met somebody this evening through my day job who must be about my age because his cultural references were pretty similar to my own, including the watching of the Adam West "Batman" series on Wednesday and Thursday nights as a kid in the mid-60s. Later in the conversation, he and other folks in the room made several friendly jokes about how I probably had a batsuit in the car or spent my nights in a bat costume, sitting in my room in the dark. While the car scenario is a bit off the mark, I really DO spend as many nights as possible in the outfit, and darkness is often part of the picture. So I did what Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker or Don Diego would surely have done in the same situation: I laughed and played along. Sometimes the best disguise is the most obvious and least likely one.

In a similar vein, another person I know told me not long ago that he'd uncovered my secret identity -- that I bore a striking resemblance to Clark Kent and a certain comic book hero. (Right fantasy, wrong character, kid.) Wow, am I exuding superhero vibes these days, or are my desires just that transparent?

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Spent way too much of the day checking out the page-by-page scans of a Japanese comic called "The Trophy" at the "Tortured Cops" Yahoo Group. It's by an artist named Gengoroh Tagame, who has an image-packed website of his own and is also the subject of another Yahoo Group which contains vast amounts of his work. Fairly extreme stuff, some of it, but a lot of it is right up my alley. Not an alley I include on most public maps of my psyche, mind you, but then the darkest and most hidden passageways are often the most exciting.

In "The Trophy," a burly cop is kidnapped by a high-ranking government official who subjects him to all sorts of indignities, including drinking his own semen. A second bear-cop comes looking for him and winds up in the same sorry state. The two men are forced into a series of degrading "contests" for the amusement of their captors. It's one of the sickest and sexiest stories I've ever seen. (As a sidenote, I find it interesting that most of the characters have western features despite their Japanese names. A few of the "bad" guys seem more overtly Asian, which raises lots of questions about ethnicity in porn. And about my own tastes--the casts of some of the other Tagame stories I've seen look more Japanese than these guys, and they just don't turn me on in quite the same way. I think some of it has to do with body hair, which seems to be more of a Western trait; the two captives in "The Trophy" are incredibly hairy, and the villain calls particular attention to the stubble on one guy. I hope to write more about race in a later post, although it's a pretty troubling subject for me. But I digress...)

People often assume that a cop fetish automatically involves wanting to submit to an authority figure, and sometimes that's the case for me, but just as often (or maybe more so) I envision the uniformed officer as a captive, a slave, a victim. It's the same with Batman and other costumed crimefighters: what gets me off is seeing them in their moments of greatest vulnerability, on the edge of degredation, despair, or even death. Ideally, they rebound and free themselves (or are set free by their colleagues) at the last possible moment. Come to think of it, the fantasy of a last-minute escape or rescue is partly just a guarantee that the cop/superhero can live to be trapped another day. It's a little like Sisyphus (or, okay, Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day"), doomed to repeat slight variations on the same struggle time after time. Sometimes I'm the captured hero, sometimes I'm the capturer.

Today, seated helpless in front of my computer while the hours ticked by and I avoiding paying work, I was a bit of both.