Reflections on submissions

This piece originally appeared in Annals of Gay Sexuality, co-written with Marcus Greatheart and Pan.

We are editors and contributors, and held ourselves to the same ethos that we requested of others. We wrote about us, not them, preferring to take responsibility rather than lay blame. By participating in this inaugural journal we agreed to erect/enrich/eroticize the conversations we’ve been privately indulging in, now envisioning this as a community-culture making process.

Who has time for faggot shame anymore? Reading Joshua Barton’s Slaughter the Moonlight and his biblically proportioned sound bites makes my lustful heart lurch in disgust. This hyper- indulgent dystopian slop-house revelry makes me want to claw at my crotch and jack off in my own blood before smoking a pack of cigarettes then casually light myself on fire. It reminds me of a brilliant young fago-lala I met two summers ago, suicidal and gratefully too talented to do anything about it, when we talked queer his only response was, “Burn it all down, the parades, the rainbow flag, the basement bars, all of it.” He would find a soul-mutant in Barton. I re-read the piece a month later, loved it, and then took a blister-raising shower. [RB]

Because we’re different, gay folks possess a freedom the moral majority both denies and craves. Francisco Ibáñez-Carrasco describes how pain and envy shaped him as a young sissy boy during the torment of the 1973 Chilean coup d’état. Can You Hear the Drums Fernando? delves into the healing paradox of BDSM culture where the writer reveals how he transformed boyhood torture through chosen erotic subjugation. The author’s sexual quest for emancipation travels through four revelatory decades of politics, pop culture and AIDS to arrive at our current biomedical machine, the Pharma-domination of our still undefeated queer community. His story is a profound act of faggot self-determination. By harnessing pain in order to harvest pleasure, Ibáñez-Carrasco nurses his own suffering world-view and so invites the reader to consider how they too may have turned their misery into some life-affirming kink. [RB]

RM Vaughan sets his group sex essay, Scheune House Rules, in a dilapidated Berlin bar before acknowledging the demise of the gay scene. Even gloved sex has devolved to the status of ‘retro.’ He inquires, “How is asking to use a condom a threat to someone’s health status?” and challenges the cultural-controlling term of ‘barebacking.’ He asserts his self-determination to use a condom as a queer erotic revelation. In his post-scriptive imaginative pick up line he reminds us where we come from, that queer requires some make-believe, it means erotically making it up together as playmates of a shared dungeon [RB]

We live in an age of techno-desire. From our ‘addiction’ to porn to our endorphin bumping phone apps such as Grindr and Scruff, are we truly enjoying our high-speed sex lives? In Navid Tabatabai’s poem, Tonight, following his own quest as a self-described ‘sacred slut,’ he dares us to re-imagine an online hook-up as an attempt to merge the spiritual within the sexual. He reaches into the anonymous void of our pixilated realities to more fully embody ecstatic man-on-man communion. [RB]

AGS Co-editor Marcus Greatheart (soon-to-be) MD is the dreamy kind of doctor for which many of us would gladly bend over and cough. Smart and sexy, he brings two decades of community street-savvy to the often panty-tight halls of Public Health. In his piece, Please Come In: Early History of ‘Bareback’ Gay Pornography and the Internal Money Shot, he fights from our corner to say gay men and other man-on-man porn lovers are more than capable of separating fantasy from reality. From the conviviality of 70’s ‘natural’ porn onward he closely follows the cavity-investigating lens of gay pornographers and current film buff-loving analysts. Marcus takes the pulse of our ‘bareback’ fetish to hear the throb of us beating-off to what some think of as our birthright: skin on skin penetration. In his sassy trademark style, this finely written article positions articulate pornographers up against the pan-paranoia of gay sex moralists. While judiciously not taking sides he certainly writes the script for future check-ups. [RB]

What mainstreamers will never quite fathom is that when gay men gather, cultural shifts percolate. While the rest of us napped, hung over from our frivolities, Mischief and Marcus lounged on the guest room bed. In See Dick Fuck these two dear friends share their pillow talk. Our glitter-littered house was full of sissy boys and hairy cowgirls draped over the worn out furniture. Two things happened that weekend: this journal was conceived and a long buried conversation sprouted its way into these pages. It’s inspiring to have quality friends whose gift of reflexivity opens the precarious door to lovingly dish about poz-envy and sero-negativity. What makes this conversation dangerous is that it is rarely spoken out loud. Wrapped in each other’s arms these two friends, in and of itself telling of what our peoples need most, expose today’s poz guy privileges and neg man burnouts; the beast in the room that haunts us all regardless of our viral status is stigma. This piece offers us a once ‘undetectable’ view of what is now possible across the HIV paradox that has so connected/ divided us: admiration for our stamina. [RB]

In This Feels Good, Though, poet Timothy D. Rains’ primary images of blindfold, spider, teeth and rope are woven together into a lusty contemplation on risk that builds anticipation with his syncopated musicality. In How Can You Be Beautiful To Me?, he explores longing and desire for connection that, for many of us, is a dangerous temptation; it risks exposure, infection, and opening one’s heart and being vulnerable. [MG]

Michael V. Smith, in a selection from his 2015 memoir My Body Is Yours, explores how both our first sense-of-self as a sexual being and our first sexual experiences replay and echo through our later sex lives. These ghosts help and hinder, and are particularly vibrant when HIV haunts the halls. The work is both sexy and insightful, demonstrating deep wisdom as he adds to, and simplifies from, within the complexity. [MG]

Robert Birch shares lurid and (autoethno)graphic data that inspired his PhD research into gay men’s group sex environments. The fellow really throws himself into his work and subjects (with consent, of course) and the result is a narrative meditation that is equal parts porno and travelogue. We started calling him Dr. Orgy, the intrepid student traversing the seediest and sexiest parts of North America in search of queer truth and a good blowjob; he claims the name with pride. [MG]

Eric Sneathen describes his work For Gaëtan Dugas as a series of cut-up poems which bring together significant cultural texts on a topic and reassemble them with scissors and glue — in this case a (false) history of the beginning of AIDS embodied by the nominal French Canadian flight attendant. The general process for a cut-up is simple: take multiple printed documents, cut, tear, or rip them into pieces, and bring them back together with tape or some other kind of adhesive. Eric explains that he is “trying to build narrative that relates the polyglot experience of the bathhouses, what might be the quintessential queer locale of the pre-history of the crisis.” The poems evoke a flurry of images, like the morning-after recollections of an intoxicated night at the baths spliced with flashes of men and their body parts. Today they seem to be sites in-between times, both before and after AIDS which, in our minds, is an important concept to consider on its own. The poems offer a new historical methodology that, in my mind, is as compelling in product as it is important in creation. [MG]

Is Barebacking a real life story or fiction? Is Simon Sheppard talking to himself or is he othering? The narrative voice suggests self- denial while simultaneously implicating the reader. Are we caught red-handed? The protagonist wants what he wants when he wants it, without accountability. And yet, he seeks amnesty in the discussion when challenging our ethical sluts. What are your politics around sex with a married man? Thanks for the dare, Simon. Discomforting enough to be compelling. [MG]

Our desire evolves into cultural phenomena. Using ‘txt as image’ we have Wilson Copland’s Steamy Boy Puss in which he takes us on a self-lubricating ride with a hot trans/cis date with two tops vying for pleasure-holes. The piece offers a snap-shot of queer folks sexually working out profound gender-cultural differences using online app- speak to evolve our kink in ways we may never have imagined a few short years ago. [RB]

Our cover image, “Zeitgiest” by Pablo Cáceres, utilizes two common tropes within painting: the mythic and the portrait. Hisfigure walks the line between innocence and ruin, a creature of agency and restrictions. [Pan]

Michael Horwitz’s vital and fictional relationship with the author of Leaves of Grass depicted in My Boyfriend Walt Whitman is both intimate and humorous. There is great power and magic in the fantasy that Horwitz creates with the combination of text and image. I love most his sense of play between the fictional and the dark actual goings on of life. [Pan]

In “Clean/Dirty” and “It Adds Up,” Grahame Perry deals in patterns, structures, and dichotomies, and yet they are all about survival, striking the line between being clean and dirty through everyday objects, to using fractalized patterns to negotiate the relationship between survival and dependence. [Pan]

“Time Out” from the series Vulnerable and Exposed from painter Lore Schmidts is perhaps the most realistic and simple of the journal’s visual selection. It depicts a man in an idealized form, young, built, and in the rituals of sports, but my favorite part is how the evidence of the stroke of the brush helps us to realize that even these creatures are constructions of the artist. [Pan]

In Wes Fanelli’s “Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I didn’t go around announcing I was a faggot,” the points of entry into eroticism include men in suits eating and the communal act of devouring. The explicit act of eating gives way to an implicit sense of desire and community. The eyes closed are my favorite moment of simplicity in the frame. Fanelli completed a series of work similar to this piece, and each used his real life friends as models. I can’t help but be reminded of Mapplethorpe’s “Man in Polyester Suit” and how the excitement of sex and pleasure are hidden by the formalities of suits and ties. [Pan]

Childhood play is the focus in Pan’s “Gothic” and “Touch.” The work places a group of men as survivors in some wild landscape. Instead of focusing on survival, they find sustenance in the acts of childhood games: tag, picking flowers, and hide and go seek. In the depth of their play, there is a hidden eroticism yearning to come out at each moment of their touch.

* We acknowledge there are many more voices needing to be heard, especially those of trans men, male immigrants, and men of color.

We reached out to our man loving networks in the English speaking, western world and these stories represents much of what arrived. We envision this journal as an opening to a more fluid/loving dialogue between cis/trans/gay/queer/bi male flavored artists, academics, activists and other down on your knees storytellers.

This is the first edition of AGS. In the next edition we plan to explore gay sexual ethics and amories (more about that at the back of the book). As the new ones on the journal block we intend to be incendiary, political, unapologetic and subversive; we embrace our necessary queer failures out loud. We hope to spark your imagination and interest and, in the spirit of healthy critique and community, your feedback is appreciated.*

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