Jun 16, 2016

Being Asexual in a Sex-Infused World

In West Hollywood, we had spent so many years hearing that same-sex desire was evil, aberrant, incomplete, faulty, sick, or non-existent that we celebrated it -- a lot.

Most conversations involved who you were having sex with and who your friends were having sex with.

Most leisure activity involved having sex, watching someone else have sex, or looking for someone to have sex with.

Sex was used to introduce new guys into your social circle, to be polite, as a party game, as a form of recreation.  You went to bed with the boyfriends of your roommates and friends, and with the roommates and friends of your boyfriend, without giving it a second thought.

Imagine, in that sex-infused world, simply not being interested.

Turns out about 1% of the population is asexual, not interested in sex with anyone.

They usually (but not always) experience aesthetic desire, finding some people hot and some not.  According to a survey conducted by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, over half have a sexual orientation: 27% are heterosexual, 26% bisexual, and 13% gay or lesbian.

They often enjoy romantic relationships (only 20% are a-romantic, interested in friendships only).

They may even engage in sexual activity, to please a partner or fit in with societal expectations: 12% are currently sexual active.

But they are not into it.  They would rather eat cake.

Asexuals face an uphill battle.  Doctors want to give them hormones, psychiatrists want to treat them for a presumed history of abuse, they're asked "if you've never tried it, how do you know you don't like it?" and told they just haven't met the right person yet.

The same things LGBT people hear from their straight "friends" all the time.

Here are some famous people who were/are probably asexual, although they are often assumed gay:
Politician Ralph Nader
Comedian Janeane Garofalo
J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan
Artist Edward Gorey
Sir Isaac Newton
Jonathan Frid, Barnabas on Dark Shadows
T. E. Lawrence, "Lawrence of Arabia"

And Jughead Jones from the Archie comics.  For years he was a "woman hater," not interested in women, so we all assumed that he was gay.  Then, in the 1980s, to assuage suspicions, he was heterosexualized, and given about as many girlfriends as the girl-crazy Archie.  But in his most recent rendition, a reboot  by Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson, Jughead is outed as asexual.

Jun 14, 2016

Cain and Abel: The Homoeroticism of the Biblical Brothers

When I was growing up, one of my favorite stories in my Children's Bible was of Cain and Abel.

They are the children of Adam and Eve, the first two brothers in the world.  They both offer food to God, Abel animal meat and Cain fruit.

God, being a carnivore, prefers Abel.  Cain gets jealous, and in a fit of rage, kills his brother.

He is then forced to wander, but he worries that everyone he meets will want to kill him (the world has filled up quickly).  So God gives him "The Mark of Cain" so he will be safe.

Rather thoughtful. I would have gone with life in prison for murder, but...

The story has a number of plot holes and inconsistencies.  But look at those sculpted abs and enormous biceps!

Throughout history, artists who wanted to depict the homoeroticism of two muscular men together, without women around, have drawn on Cain and Abel.  They struggle, strain, press together so tightly that you can almost forget that they're trying to kill each other.

And, in the modern era, you can comment on warfare, bigotry, and homophobic hate crimes.

Abel is the quiet, gentle, gay-coded shepherd.  Cain is depicted as a big bully, a rough-and-tumble farmer.

Adolph Bougereau, The First Mourning (1888), emphasizes Adam and Eve's despair over losing their boy, who is depicted as feminine, almost pre-Raphaelite.

In his 1899 depiction, Danish painter Laszlo Hegedus gives Abel (facing us) a self-righteous sneer, while Cain (the one with the bare backside) has red hair, symbolising anger.

Fellow Danish artist Svend Rathsack (1885-1941), primarily a sculptor, was interested in both male and female nudes.  His Cain (1910) emphasizes the muscles and buttocks of the brothers, as Cain strikes Abel with what looks like an animal bone.

John P. Reilly (1928-2010) was a Catholic artist who drew inspiration from the Byzantine world.  There's no nudity in his Cain (1958), but I thought it was interesting that Abel, the good guy, is tall, thin, and handsome, while Cain is a short, squat, grunting Morlock.  He's also trapped; maybe his genes have already doomed him to be a murderer.

Marc Chagal, the French-Jewish primitivist, gives us a penis in his 1960 version.

The Bible doesn't say how old Cain and Abel were, but most artists make Cain middle-aged and Abel a sallow youth.  Eric de Saussure's 1968 version makes them both boys. Oddly, Cain is dark-skinned and Abel light-skinned.

Maurice Heerdink makes them both teenage in his ultra-realistic, brightly-lit, homoerotic version (2001).

I have to include this version by Bill Hoope (2001), if only because I want to know where they got the globe, and why they're attacking it with animal bones.

Jun 13, 2016

Zagor, the Italian Tarzan, Batman, Robin, Phantom, and Cisco Kid

Zagor is a comic book series first published in Italy in 1961, with later versions in the former Yugoslavia, Austria, Greece, Israel, and Turkey.

It is set in early 19th century Pennsylvania, a pristine wilderness where young Patrick Wilding becomes Batman: he sees his parents murdered, and grows up lusting for vengeance.

Or maybe he becomes Robin: he trains with a group of acrobats, like Dick Grayson.

Or maybe he's Tarzan: he moves into the wilderness, where the natives call him the Lord of the Darkwood.  He travels by jumping from tree branches, like Tarzan swinging from vines.  He fights monsters, poachers, desperados, and jungle beasts...um, I mean coniferous forest beasts...like bears, cougars, and alligators.

Or maybe he's the Phantom: "Zagor" is short for the Indian name Za-Gor-Te-Nah, the Ghost with the Hatchet (his preferred weapon).  Like the Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks.

Note that he always wears a red sleveless shirt with a yellow bird emblem.

Or maybe he's the Cisco Kid: he has a bumbling sidekick, Chico, who looks and acts like Pancho from the tv series.

There have been three movie versions in Turkey:

Zagor (1970), starring Cihangir Gaffari (who appeared in American films as John Gaffari and John Foster).

Zagor kara bela (Zagor and the Land of Trouble, 1971) and Zagor kara korsan'in hazineleri (Zagor and the Black Pirate's Treasure, 1971) starring Levent Çakir.

Levent Çakir is rather inadequately muscular, even though he also starred as the Turkish Superman.

There are two English-language translations: Zagor: Terror from the Sea (2015) and Zagor: The Red Sand (2016).

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