WHO THINKS WE'RE SEXY? DO WE?
A BENT/Disgaytalk Forum

With contributions from Ray Aguilera, Bob Bowman, Bob Feinstein, Julio Moreno, Charlie Squires, and Max Verga

Disgaytalk is the online discussion group associated with BENT, where cripgay men talk about the issues that matter to them—funny, serious and everything in between.

From time to time, with the cooperation of the participants, BENT presents an edited version of an exchange we think will interest a wider audience. You'll find the last Forum here, and older Forums archived.

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Recently a friend gave me issue #93 of "Drummer Magazine." In that issue writers explore the attraction to differently-shaped bodies in a feature titled "Maimed Beauty," which includes ten photographs by George Dureau, depicting amputees and other "physically different men seen through the eyes of love." The first time I had seen George Dureau photos was a shocker, like staring at myself in a mirror with fluorescent lights shining on me. It was painful and delightful, scary and exciting, nauseating and intriguing all at once.

Seeing that issue of "Drummer" reminded me of my conviction that there is a potentially creative relationship between the SMBD and queer-crip communities. Recently, I subscribed to alt.com, a site where people can search for partners based on their kinks. Although the list of kinks is pretty comprehensive, I couldn't find any reference to differently-shaped bodies. I suggested that alt.com add that option, but I haven't heard back. Since I pay a monthly fee I feel I have the right to demand a service that answers my needs, so maybe this is the kind of activism we can engage in by exercising our market power. At the same time, it would be a way of making ourselves visible as men who can be creative about ways to explore our sexualities. Let me know what you guys think about this.

~Julio Moreno
California

I am uniquely qualified to respond to Julio's posting, since I wrote one of the articles in the "Drummer" issue he mentions. In fact it was my article, "Other Bodies," based on encounters with real people, that convinced the editor to publish the entire "Maimed Beauty" issue. I later met with George Dureau himself, a meeting I related in an article for BENT. The fact that "Maimed Beauty" inspired the largest response to any "Drummer" issue to that point says something about how the subject of sex with men disabled men touched a nerve. The response was overwhelmingly positive, by the way. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the impact was lasting.

I've always maintained that SMBD enthusiasts are more open to body differences than most. Maybe it's because men looking to be either dominated or submissive (or those who are "versatile"), are more willing to accept what others might consider shortcomings in a partner in order to get the responses they crave. Once you admit that you like to be tied up or laid out in a sling, confessing to a desire for sex with disabled men is not exactly a shocker. Since SMBD probably gets the worst press of all gay subcultures (simply because it is the most misunderstood), a site like alt.com might be reluctant to include an attraction to disabled men on a list of fetishes most people already feel queasy about. But I say if you can lick boots, take a man's fist, and beg to be encased in rubber head to toe, you can admit to sucking stumps, obeying a midget Master, and getting off watching a man stomp around your dungeon in a built-up boot.

I can tell you firsthand that many men fantasize about all of the above. Some of you might be cringing just by reading about such acts, so is it any wonder that SMBD practitioners are hesitant to admit that the man they want it all from might not be the standard Muscle God? On the other hand, some men who have entered the SMBD fold might feel compelled to pursue only the stereotyped Muscle God, thus passing up what could be an eye-opening experience with a hot disabled guy who doesn't "measure up." I've seen Masters barely four feet tall. I've seen men who should be posing for porno magazines serve them like they were giants. I've known of studs with metal arm-hooks peeking out from leather jackets whose dance cards were as booked as any hustler's. To some, it might be a sad commentary that a man with disabilities is more accepted in the kink community, but let's give that community some points for being more open.

Since even leather queens store their chaps and biker jackets in closets, it might take a lot of time and energy to make the case that putting a fetish for disabled men on a list of kinks will benefit a whole lot of people. Julio, I have a feeling that you will do your part for your fellow man, but a lot of work also must be done by those disabled men unwilling to admit that being the object of a fetish feels good physically and psychologically. Many are probably not turned on in the least to SMBD. But the truth is I've seen more men with disabilities in leather bars than in twink joints.

"Drummer" no longer exists, and the kind of stories it was willing to publish are "hands-off" for most magazines; the Internet has replaced it to some extent, but responsible coverage for different sexualities remains the exception there. I think that the SMBD community is the place to start for a greater acceptance of bodies not conforming to what most Internet viewers get to see.

~Max Verga
New York

Max, I just found your BENT article when I did an Internet search for George Dureau. I was struck by your sensitive, insightful interpretation of his work—and besides, you write beautifully. Interesting that you treat both positive and negative responses to Dureau. Your analysis reinforces my belief that SMBD men and queer crips need to be allies, that the more progressive among us need to help others understand the community-building potential of "leather." It's no wonder that people in general and crips in particular have strong reactions when they see Dureau's photos and pictures like them, since we are unaccustomed to having our bodies validated in such a sexually candid manner. Well, I'm not going to bore you with any more of my critique, but thanks for being such a positive force, Papi. Peace-

~ Julio

Your response really makes this bear purr. (Hmmm. Do bears purr?) About a year after the "Drummer" article appeared I was talking to someone I had just finished unwrapping at the New York Bondage Club. Somehow or other the article came up. When he found out that I had written it, his whole demeanor changed. It seems that after having been temporarily disabled by an auto accident, he had harbored negative thoughts about himself. He told me that "Other Bodies" and the entire "Maimed Beauty" segment had made him realize that some men would still have found him attractive, even in his disabled state. It was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to me. At least one person had gone beyond getting caught up in the issue of objectification as a negative thing.

When you write, which you do because you love to do it and need to do it, hearing that you've touched someone with your words is magic. Knowing that people are communicating because of what you've said, even if you might not like how they respond, is the greatest compliment anyone who puts pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard can get.

~Max

Thanks for that anecdote Max. You know, for years prior to my accident I'd seen examples of acceptance and love within the SMBD community. And since my accident SMBD folks have welcomed me into their midst with genuine kindness on a number of occasions. I would much rather roll into a leather/levi bar and be welcomed than hang out in some twink disco where I am almost always ignored. I guess what I'm saying is that my experience "bears" out what you're talking about 100%.

~Bob Bowman
New Mexico

Bob's observation reminds me of a shocking moment I experienced. Well, at least it shocked me. I had just had some nasty orthopedic surgery, and for a while I could only get around with a walker. It was definitely the most "medical" look I had ever had up to that point. I guess it's also relevant that at thirty-one years old I was still carded from time to time in casinos and bars.

Anyway, I went to a local neighborhood gay bar with friends. I rarely go to bars of any sort, so I wasn't well known there. The reaction as I hobbled in with my walker stunned me. People fell into two camps, largely along age lines. The younger set (those in their twenties) looked at me with disgust, while the older guys (the thirty-somethings) looking at me like I was courageous just for being there. I've since noticed that same division, even when I use a cane, in everyday life.

A similar incident occurred when my Dad bought me an unusual handmade cane while he was on vacation in Belize. The easiest way to carry it back was just to use it, so he did. The reaction shocked him. He says that about half of the folks in airports were super polite to him, holding doors, saying hello, etc., and the other half treated him with disgust. It was a real eye-opener for him and he developed a new level of understanding of what daily life is like for me.

I'm not sure these experiences have anything intrinsically to do with bears or SMBD (I don't have much of a personal sample size there), but in my limited experience that crowd would have demographically fallen more among the good guys.

~Charlie Squires
Wisconsin

Guys, Bill described a Website to me that features photos of amputees. I find that fascinating. I also remember that one of Bob Guter's editorials in BENT mentions men who want to have limbs amputated in order to feel whole. I forgot the name for this [apotemnophilia -ed.] but it truly exists. I'm fascinated by what people find erotic. For me, certain sounds are erotic in a way that I'll bet most sighted guys would find strange. I wonder why nobody finds blind erotic? And I wonder why certain things turn me on that others would have no reaction to.

~Bob Feinstein and Guide Dog Harley
New York

Bob, the site you refer to is called AmpHunks. On the one hand, I believe that the intent of the site's creator is completely shameful, since it appears totally exploitative to me. On the other hand, the guys are hot. The bit about the images being "in the public domain" indicates to me that the men depicted almost certainly do not know they are featured there.

It'd be cool to have an amphunks page put together by a socially conscious amphunk, instead of an abled guy, huh? Seems like the problem with the page is the author's intent and words. I guess I didn't react against it so quickly when I saw it because I'm trying to lose my own internalized queer cripophobia .

~Charlie

Bob, I'm sure there are some people who find blindness to be erotic. Maybe that's one of the reasons leather shops do such a booming business in blindfolds, etc. What's more likely is that disability is so stigmatized, and sexual attraction to disability even more so, that those who might be turned on by blindness probably don't advertise their tastes quite as loudly as those into more "socially acceptable" things like blonds or big biceps—or Vin Diesel [grin]. As to the AmpHunks site, I found it to be "interesting," if only as one more example of the patronizing, "disabled people are amazing" attitude common in a lot of devotee sites. To each his own, I say. That's what the delete key is for.

~Ray Aguilera
California

"The vision of blindness and the blindness of vision" is a line from a song by Raul Seixas, father of Brazilian rock and roll. Bob, when I play with guys I blindfold them sometimes. I might also tie them up to put them completely under my control. Then, little by little, I chose whatever intensities I want to inflict on their bodies. If my partner is blindfolded, whatever acts I choose to perform (sucking his cock, squeezing his tits, licking his feet, kissing his mouth, stroking his ass, whipping, dripping wax on his skin)—if these acts are executed to any of a variety of pre-negotiated intensities, they become much more exciting by the element of surprise, by his inability to know when or how I will use his body. On the other hand, I like to be blindfolded as well—oh, I'm such a twisted fuck!—and surrender to suspected, anxious, random delights.

If you like to play with bondage through trust, then it's exciting to inform your blind and/or blindfolded partner of your intentions, and deliver accordingly. I'll give you ten spankings now . . . and ten spanking are given. I'll shove my cock in your mouth now . . . and my cock in his mouth goes. These are some of the ideas that I have about the sexy side of blindness, the element that allows the body to see by creating mental images of the other's body via tasting, touching, hearing, feeling. Eyes in every finger, eyes in the nose, in the ears, in the tongue. A body covered with eyes that see a world of flesh touching flesh. Blind is beautiful. Blind is hot!

~Julio

Julio, your description of being blindfolded and how blindness adds to sensations sounds to me like it has more in common with the devotee phenomenon than with really being blind. Nobody has ever kissed my blind eyes or found the lack of sight in them attractive. What you describe is having a sighted person willingly close his eyes or experience temporary lack of sight by being blindfolded. That may heighten sensations, but it is not the same thing as finding a blind person or blindness-as- disability a turn-on.

I see (should I say "perceive"?!) a huge difference between the two. On the other hand, my own blindness does enhance touch. I believe that we who are born blind have a unique way of touching, so for me, simply feeling a guy's arm while being guided can be erotic.

~Bob F.

I understand your point of view, Bob, and I appreciate the important distinction you make between your experience and Julio's outlook. I love your explanation of the erotic charge you can get when being guided. It reinforces my belief that more Websites ought to welcome men with disabilities, disabilities of all kinds, blindness included. I hope that more men with disabilities will themselves expect inclusion. I also hope that guys with disabilities will not force sites that feature photos of men like them to shut down, which is what happened to The Secret Garden Website.

Why shouldn't men with disabilities get a piece of the action—on the Internet and in person—not just as viewers, but as the men being watched, the men being desired? For that reason I think we should try to get a foot (or lack thereof) in the door at alt.com, as Julio suggested.

~Max

 

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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/January 2003