Sunday, June 8, 2014

Erotic Generosity

I've read a lot of queer theory in my day. I've read a fair amount of sex-positive liberal Christian theology. And I've read a lot of porn.

But in very little of it all have I found much that really voices what people who participate in alternative sexual communities are sometimes blessed to learn among themselves: when we find safety to accept our longings as a given, without shame, with the good will and acceptance of others--when we let down our defenses----our impulses toward generosity blossom. And we beget the further generosity of others in turn.
The chance to create safe containers for such experiences is one of the reasons queer men need to find each other apart from even the most tolerant and inclusive of wider cultures--and why those containers are probably best left mostly shielded from outside scrutiny. There's not really a lot of point in wasting emotional energy on dealing with the discomfort the alternative erotic spaces and practices we create are likely to engender in the wider normative culture.
Queer theory explores the creative, liberative impulse in all this--but without much attention to the impact that pleasure and erotic encounter have on the soul. Liberal Christian moral theology focuses on how interpersonal sexual connection shapes and fulfills the soul--but mostly remains embarassed that pleasure and fantasy shape our sexual preferences and experience before deep interpersonal connection comes into it. And a lot of porn focuses unrealistically on fulfilled fantasy and impossibly perfect pleasure--while mostly pretending that good sex doesn't engage our minds and spirits.
Radical faeries know better. I get the impression from friends that leatherfolk often know better. Men who participate in networks for non-penetrative, non-ejaculatory touch know better. The characters in John Cameron Mitchell's sweet, heartfelt, funny and incredibly hot film Shortbus know better. And the men I spent a Sunday afternoon with at the New York Jacks a few weeks ago clearly knew better.
To be fair to queer theorists, theologians, and pornographers alike: it's a tall order to write about a sexual experience of one's own in a way that's analytical and reverent and hot.
There's no better word than generosity to describe what happens when a roomful of men drop down into the lively possibilities of our bodies, stop searching for the ideal partner, smile in welcome at each other, and open up to treating those we meet in the moment with respect and delight. Generosity accepts the interest and affection of men who'd never turn one's head in a bar. Generosity creates safety for us to stop judging ourselves against impossible standards of air-brushed beauty. Generosity gives us space to be a little goofy, and to stop masking our longing behind a defensive screen of attitude. Generosity is love directed not just to a circle of friends and lovers, but to a random sample of humanity. Generosity is patient. Generosity is kind. Generosity is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It is not irritable or resentful. Generosity is willling to experience all things, hopes all things. Generosity never ends.

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