Of the Male Body

Last week I talked a bit about body issues and how I think our puritanical but overly sexualized society has damaged how we view the human form. After writing that post (and reading this) my lack of credibility when talking about body issues for women seemed incredibly strong but I felt I could talk about how we view the form can affect men, namely me. Of course this is all just coming from one person’s point of view but hell, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

As my regular reader knows I was raised in a Christian Conservative home in the relatively puritanical United States. The result is that I was raised with the view that the body is inherently sexual (yay society) and that any appreciation of the male form is a sin (yay conservatism). So I basically grew up with a deeply entrenched fear that if I saw a naked man and didn’t feel disgust on a spiritual level then I was going to hell, and some part of my brain included my own body in this grouping. In fact, I remember being in middle school and having a sex ed class where they showed the penis and I instantly felt light-headed, nauseous, and I think I audibly groaned in discomfort. In case you didn’t know, being a 14 year old male groaning in the back of the class at this site of a penis is not a good social move.

All through high school I had body image issues (mostly due to my weight) and I felt incredibly uncomfortable around anyone who didn’t display the traditional markings of a heterosexual. All the ingrained intolerance of homosexuals had created a fear inside me that I might be gay and if I hung around gay people or saw naked men I would no longer be able to fight it. So, I ended up joining the army terrified of gay people, embarrassed of my own body (including my penis), and lacking any appreciation for the aesthetic beauty that is the human form.

At some point all of that started to change though. In regards to my own body I became more comfortable with myself as I spent more time naked alone and did a little internet research. I always knew pornography was fantasy but the internet allowed me to find out the actual average erect penis size (spoiler: it depends on the study but 5.5″ – 6.5″ seems about right) and become comfortable with what I have. Plus, you can do a lot more with a tongue, fingers, and toes than the actual penis most of the time. Size isn’t nearly as important as a connection with a person, being able to feel their rhythm, and adjust your actions to pleasure them. About the same time I became comfortable with my body I was also rejecting my conservative upbringing and becoming comfortable with non-heterosexuality.

I agree with the always insightful Cathy, sexuality is more of a sliding scale that depends on time, place, and individuals… it is not simply “straight, gay, bi”. While I occasionally get asked if I’m gay (usually in a derogatory way) because I so openly talk about the beauty of the human form, am comfortable supporting equal rights for all, and have become someone who encourages exploration of all things by consenting adults, I define myself as pansexual. By that I mean I am sexually attracted to people on an individual basis depending on the time, place, my relationship with them, and how attractive I think they are. I love individuals, I find them fascinating, and if there is a mutual attraction and desire I have no problem with exploring that… everything else is just details.

Though, on the show KinK someone described their sexual preference as “group” which I found funny/accurate.

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A Wonderful E-Mail

What follows below is an email I received last night from a colleague. I’m sharing it because in a lot of ways it reflects why I try to be so open and honest about my life, I hope that by being open I can provide support for people who may not be as outspoken and help encourage people to view things from a different place. Being a poly, open, hippie, anarchist, kinky, sex-positive, love seeking, spiritual atheist does not always mean I feel welcome so it is nice to support the community online and offline. I did respond to the letter below but decided not to share it, while I don’t mind sharing my views in the abstract I try to keep the specifics of my life personal (except for naked bike rides of course) and my response involved personal details. So, here is the letter, I hope that it can provide hope, insight, and discussions among anyone who reads it.
 

  • Hey Peter,

    We’ve never really talked before, but I’ve followed your blog for a while so I can’t help but feel as if I know you in a sense. I wanted to thank you for being so open about your life with the world. Its really admirable and personally just helped me through a really hard time in my life.

    My boyfriend of two years recently confessed to me that he is interested in seeing other people. We’ve only ever been with each other and he isn’t comfortable with that anymore. I have also had my doubts about monogamy, though it hasn’t been a problem for me yet. We truly have a great relationship and while his confession initially really hurt me, I have finally accepted that his feelings have nothing to do with me being inadequate or him being immature. I know this because we’ve always had a great relationship and we have no major complaints about it. We’re brutally honest with each other about everything and have very good communication. (He’s terrible at understanding and expressing his feelings, which can be hard, but he does his best and I like to think I have enough emotional intelligence and fortitude for the both of us).

    Initially, we broke up, but after talking through it, we decided we want to try an open/polyamorous relationship and I feel 100% better since making that decision. I’ve realized that the pain I was feeling was exacerbated by the pro-monogamy conditioning society engrains in us. I felt that because he was interested in seeing other people, I had to cast him out of my life entirely, since that’s just what people do. But I’ve always supported polyamory in theory and it felt entirely unnatural and morally wrong to try to stifle and put out our love.

    I never imagined how difficult it would be for me to come to grips with actually walking the walk of polyamory, but I’m so glad that I have. Of course, I don’t know if it will work out. Considering we’re going to be graduating soon and our lives will likely be moving in different directions, it probably won’t if I’m being honest with myself (though I also think the flexibility of polyamory will give our relationship the greatest chance of surviving change). I also know that I might come to realize that this isn’t the right kind of relationship for me. I’m sure the most difficult aspects, such as dealing with jealousy and navigating a society that won’t understand or support my relationship, are still to come. But no matter how it turns out, I feel so good about this decision and I can honestly say I probably wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t learned about polyamory through your Facebook and blog. So thank you

    Here’s hoping we continue to always choose the less beaten path, be it in our political views or our personal lives, even when it feels as if all the odd are against us.
    Your sister in solidarity,
    p.s. you’re free to share any of this on your blog or whatever if you feel so inclined

On Suicide

A facebook friend of mine posted the following status:

“I am committed to talking to my friends, even my Facebook friends, if they are contemplating dying. I am not committed to doing that for strangers.”

I’m not going to assume what he meant by that exactly but it did get me thinking again about my personal brush with suicide a few years ago.

I was living in DC and incredibly depressed, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I had a lot of people in my life but few that I could call friends, it seems hard to make real friends in a city like DC where even the libertarians are so entrenched in political activities that they can’t relate to people on a personal level very easily. I had friends from back home but “home” was the west coast and I was not making enough money to visit as often as I liked. I also had no idea what I wanted to do with my life but was surrounded by people who seemed to have it all figured out.

So, one evening I found myself in my bedroom a little drunk and watching something shitty on Netflix. A depressive cloud started to come over me and I felt the reoccurring feeling of my PTSD (this was before I discovered the healing power of MDMA)… I started weeping in my bed as images of friends I lost and regrets over surviving took over my mind. This had happened to me before but I had always had a trusted friend or a girlfriend who would hold me, comfort me, and help me in these times. I look back now and realize that there were many people who would have helped me if I asked but my depressive state left me unable to recognize that.

With no friends that I felt I could turn to I posted something on Tumblr about my current state. Within a few quick seconds I received a supportive message from a complete stranger. Her and I talked back and forth for about an hour online until I drifted off to sleep. Later I found out her name is Molly and she is a libertarian. We have actually become Facebook friends as well now, though we have not yet crossed paths in real life. I truly thank her for helping save my life. There is no way to know what would have happened without her but the kindness she showed me (a stranger) helped get me safely through the night.

My bike trip reinforced the kindness of strangers and that kindness can be found anywhere. Not only do I think we should be nice to strangers but it may just save a life to go out of your way and show love and support to one. So I guess what I’m saying is that if I am aware that a stranger is contemplating dying I am committed to doing what I can to help.

Men, We Need Hold Each Other Responsible

There is an article going around about a TSA officer who shamed a 15-year old for her outfit (link here). Maybe it is my lack of sleep, maybe it is a lack of coffee, but this seriously pissed me off. Men, we need to get our shit together and take responsibility for ourselves (and hold our peers accountable).

If you can’t look at a half inch of flesh without lust in your heart that is YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM! Stop attempting to shame and control what women wear. Stop cat-calling every jogger in yoga pants. Stop assuming that a woman at the club dancing wants your penis inside of her. Did she say she wants your penis? Did she say she wants your attention? Did she say you can touch her? NO? Then the answer is no. It isn’t “if I try harder”, it isn’t “maybe if I holler at her from the corner she will see all my wonderful values and fall in love with me”, the answer is no until it is explicitly yes.

The human form is not sexual by default. I realize we have all been brought up in a country that treats the body as a purely sexual but taboo object. We’ve been told that showing skin is wrong because it is sexual. But our upbringing is not an excuse for individual behavior. There is a time and place for sexual activity, and that time and place is not every time you see the outline of a nipple, cleavage, or a woman exercising in form-fitting clothes. And any attempt at blaming evolution for this is a strawman at best, there are a lot of things that humans do that no other species has done, certainly we can add “treats everyone with respect, judges people for their character not their clothes, honors them as individuals, and requires explicit consent” to the list of things like “cooks food, wears clothes, uses technology, discusses philosophy, and shares pictures of cats”.

It is not men’s place to tell a woman what to wear, try to make her feel bad about what she is wearing, or to make assumptions based on what she is wearing. Seriously, if you lack any self control and feel like you need to prove you have a penis by hollering at everything with two X chromosomes do us all a favor and stay indoors until you are ready to be a part of civilized society.

Men, not only do we need to stop acting like sex-deprived shitheads but we need to call out our friends when they do it. It should be socially unacceptable to see a woman and assume “sex”, regardless of what she is or is not wearing. One of my favorite things about Burning Man was a woman could walk alone at night wearing nothing and feel safe. We men should help provide that safe place throughout society by holding each other accountable and treating women as something more than a potential lay.

-End Rant-

Of The Body

I have grown to really love the human body over the last few years. The human form is amazingly beautiful to me and the more I learn about how it functions the more beautiful it becomes. I also love my body, something that I could not always claim. Throughout high school, and even into my military days, I was uncomfortable being naked and found myself to be incredibly unattractive. As my views have changed and I have stopped comparing myself to the male physique that is marketed to me I find I am much happier and I am more inspired to actually take care of my body.

I believe people would greatly benefit if they came to love their body, be comfortable naked alone, and become comfortable naked around others without an assumption of sexual contact. Loving myself and my body was a huge milestone for me and helped me re-evaluate a lot of things I once believed, I think that is why it is so important to me. Unfortunately, in American society the image of the body has been completely skewed through a combination of unrealistic expectation as well as a puritan view of the body that oversexualizes it. The three sources of this skewing that comes to mind is advertising, movies/tv, and pornography.

Advertising in the western world does the most damage to body image in my opinion. The airbrushing, model selection process, and plastic surgery puts forth an image that is not attainable by most people. To be bombarded with these images has an effect on people on both a conscious and subconscious level. This is the most serious offender, while pornography and Hollywood may cause problems most people are aware movies and tv shows are fiction, they are fantasy, they are stories. This is explicitely known from the beginning, with advertising the line between fantasy and reality blurs and we are told what we are seeing is real.

Hollywood plays a part in setting up unrealistic expectations for body, but without airbrushing the real harm comes from the censorship enforced by the MPAA. If you haven’t seen “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” I highly advise it, it is available on Netflix streaming. Hollywood creates an environment where the male body is used only as a joke, the female form is only for sex, female pleasure is often censored, and homosexual relationships are rarely given the same support that heterosexual relationships are. Essays upon essays could be written on this subject but for me the distortion of the body is what matters. The body is never shown in a comfortable and normal environment, instead it is sex or comedy. We have a society that says that showing realistic murders is okay for evening television but the presence of an areola is forbidden.

This reinforcement of the nude form being only allowed for sex is incredibly harmful. From school children giggling at art to dress codes that sexualize all flesh men grow up with no need to mature or practice self control. Instead of learning that the body has many functions we are taught that skin equals sex. I think people rightfully claim that Americans are desensitized to violence and in it’s place we have become overly-sensitized to the beautiful human form.

I believe pornography also has an impact on body image, but I don’t think it is as harmful as the other two. Certainly traditional porn features an unnatural “porn star” look that isn’t obtainable by the average person. I think this is particularly true when it comes to vaginal construction, there is a certain vaginal look with minimized labia’s that is pretty common in porn but is rare in real life (at least in my experience). Fortunately, porn is a very free market with a growing demand for amateur and “amateur” porn with realistic people. I think it is worth noting that the Australian government has worked to ban small breasts in pornography, basically telling society what a “real sexual woman” looks like. Within pornography you can also find evidence that nudity does not equal sex, but coming from the reverse direction. If you’ve ever seen one of the “Beautiful Agony” videos you know that just seeing the facial expressions and hearing the sounds of someone in orgasm can be incredibly erotic, no nipples, vaginas, butts, or penises needed.

The human form is a beautiful thing. It exists independent of sex and we would all be better off if we desensitized ourselves to seeing people in the buff. When every body is no longer seen as a sex object you get more value and pleasure out of sex when it happens. Making something taboo, forcing it underground, and placing unrealistic puritanical standards on society harm everyone. I think the first step is to love yourself and your body first. Strip down, look in the mirror, and just enjoy the wonder of you. Everybody is different, there is such beauty in variety but that beauty can’t be seen if all we see is sex or shame.

Note: I realize that I address the human form in general and the female form in particular. I think there is a good discussion to be had about how specialization of nudity has an effect on men viewing men and when I get my thoughts sorted out I may do a blog post.

Post Script: While I think Hollywood and modern marketing does a lot of harm I don’t believe there should be government intervention. A society that produces unrealistic forms is bad, but a society that sees violence (and all government action is violence) as an appropriate response to all ills is even worse. Education, discussion, and information is how we should fight.

As always I recognize that my views are skewed based on my gender, sex, race, and economic status. I certainly don’t claim to speak for anyone except myself. These are my perceptions as an individual white, middle-class, pansexual with a penis

36 Hours in the City of Good and Evil

This weekend I flew into Washington DC for a birthday party. I figure, what’s the point of being a young professional in your 30’s with no kids if you can’t jet across the country for parties from time to time. Despite the 4-hours of sleep on a red-eye, fighting with Amtrak, DC Metro, and just the general suck of the infrastructure in this city I am crazy happy that I made the trip. To be honest, I’m trying to figure out a way Anna and I can come in for a party next week where I might be able to show off my fire dancing skills a little (if I can figure a way to transport a 5’0″ fire staff on an airplane… I wonder if that is on the TSA “no-fly” list).

I’ve really found that I enjoy coming back to the District from time-to-time. I hated living here (seriously… hated it) but the people I know here are some of the greatest humans I’ve  ever encountered and they know how to party and make someone feel welcome. I have a certain level of comfort with them that I don’t often experience. As an introvert I usually hate big social events and I even had to retreat to a quiet corner a half dozen times last night just to recenter myself. It is exhausting meeting new people, I’d much rather have a small intimate conversation with close friends than be surrounded by bodies and noise.

If I’m really being honest though, there was something else on my mind from early on. I have known all week that I would be meeting a bit of a liberty internet celebrity crush of mine at this party. Having a physical, sexual attraction to someone is easy but it is often little more than fantasy in the beginning and I think one advantage of meeting people online is quickly moving to real discussions and an opportunity to develop an intellectual attraction of substance. As a poly, open, anarchist I often have to retreat to the internet to find like-minded people and because of that my social skills are often sub-par.

I found myself nervous (which is actually kind of rare) as we started talking and I was oddly aware of my mannerisms and voice patterns. The conversations we had were absolutely what I needed though. To just sit back and talk to someone about dealing with jealousy, rules we have in place with our partners, how we came to our views, and where we see ourselves in the future was a highlight of my trip. It is rare I can talk to someone in person because I spend half the time defending my personal choices or going over basics, to have a personal conversation about life from a non-judgmental person was something that has been missing from my life. I only wish we would have had more time to talk and dive into even deeper subjects and see if this can blossom into a real friendship. Of course, the idealist creative side of me is forecasting way into the future…

So, this little patch of swampland continues to redeem itself despite sitting at the center of all that is wrong with society. One of the lessons from my bike ride last summer was that people matter and that people are good, and that is why I like visiting DC, the people. I’m sure I’ll be back soon you ugly, muggy, toxic, sad, power-thirsty, hive of scum and villainy.

KinK

kink

I recently started watching the show “KinK” on Netflix. “KinK” is a Canadian documentary series that follows and interviews people who have lifestyles and fetishes that tend to run outside the mainstream. BDSM, cross-dressing, and polyamory are all highlighted in a realistic and oftentimes fascinating way.

While I’ve never been involved in much non-vanilla sex I do have an interest in it, just like I have an interest in everything, and this show has been a wonderful introduction. As a documentary the people involved are not actors, they are real people with bodies, minds, and emotions that are a fresh break from the choreographed sexuality of pornography and romantic comedies. You get to see real scenes in an informative way and come to understand the bond that is shared between the people who participate. There are many themes that run through the show (at least so far, I’m only on Season 1), but the primary ones seem to be hurting and harming are different, it is immoral to do anything without consent and immoral to prevent consenting adults from enjoying themselves, and the responsibility for communication and support does not end at the bedroom. Three things that I think all people can learn from.

I’m still not sure if the kinky lifestyle is for me but the people involved seem to be good people focused on communication, love, and safety. I’ve been to one BDSM club and in my natural introverted fashion I stayed on the edge and didn’t really do much, but I hope to explore a little more and find out what the world has to offer. I once had a pastor preach that being comfortable isn’t good or bad, it is neutral because you are being static and not challenging yourself. Being comfortable is necessary to refuel from time to time but I want more to life than refueling, and that means getting out there and figuring out where my limits are.

Anyway, if you have Netflix and are curious I recommend checking out the show. You just might learn something or a new experience might appeal to you.