Interview by Jack Nichols
or 25 years," wrote Bill Weintraub in his essay, Cockrub Warriors, "ever since gay male culture took a turn to the right in 1975, anal sex has dominated both the gay male psyche and gay men's sex lives."
Weintraubís essay marshals his reasons for opposing the primacy of this particular sexual act. He says:
"Whereas previously sex had been a smorgasbord, with oral sex, JO, frottage, and anal sex seen as essentially equal, a new and rigorous definition of good gay sex appeared in the mid-70s, in which the first three were considered foreplay, and only the last regarded as the culminating, and therefore essential, gay sexual act."
Weintraub critiques old-fashioned Freudian theorizing thatís been adopted by vast numbers of gay males as well as the Southern Baptists:
"(This new model of gay male sexuality mirrored, of course, heterosexuality, in which foreplay leads to penetration, and for which the psychiatric establishment of the time had a term: "full genital maturity."
Weintraub appreciates that there has been a major assimilationist push going forward on behalf of one specific sexual act and that this has led to new forms of old-fashioned inequality:
"The parallel was stark: For straights, cocks and cunts. For that newly-emerging ethnic group called gays, cocks and butts. Tops and bottoms, dominants and submissives Ė you see, we could say, we're not that different after all.)
"Gay men who didn't like anal intercourse rapidly found themselves put into a category that just a few years earlier had been reserved for all homosexuals: adolescent and immature. Their sexual choices were stridently belittled, and they were often told that they themselves were not truly gay.
"A few, like myself, who perhaps remembered the bad old days before gay liberation and believed that the essence of sexual liberation was the freedom to practice one's own authentic sexuality, stuck stubbornly to their non-anal ways."
Impressed by Bill Weintraubís willingness to launch any such examination of our cultureís demanding sexual positioning, I began to appreciate that he seems aware how sexual practices get shaped in each of us through our local areaís cultural norms. Some, like Bill, have questioned those norms. Most other people take them for granted, incorporating local limits that may be coercive or destructive in their sex lives.
Jack Nichols: Bill, I remember a time, the 1950s, when anal sex was talked about only in whispers in the nationís capital where I came out at thirteen and grew to be twenty-nine. The 1950s and early 1960s were big on oral sex. People who invited anal sex were called by a pejorative name, "brownie queens." You came out a little later, didnít you?
Bill Weintraub: Yes, I came out in 1972, in Boston, which I think was a very different place from the big cities like New York or LA or even D.C. Boston had a relatively small but very cohesive, committed, and intellectually lively gay and lesbian community. Free love was then in full flower, and the ideals of Gay Liberation and the counterculture flourished. So far as I could tell, no one sexual act was placed above another. So it was a wonderful and liberating time and place to be gay, and Iím grateful to have been there.
Jack Nichols: I vividly remember many gay men in those days gossiping with this tidbit: "Well, heís a brownie queen, you know." Anal sex, truly, was not chic. Thatís when I began realizing that no sex acts are written in stone. We changeóeven from decade to decade! Isnít that what youíre saying too?
Bill Weintraub: Yes, and itís somewhat amusing to me that some people have sought to label what Iím saying as extreme, even though the idea that much of our sexual behavior is culturally dictated and changes over time and place has been at the core of academic discussions about sexuality for two decades, and of course corresponds to our own experience.
So itís hardly radical to assert, as I do, that we have at present a cultural dominance or tyranny of anal sex that shapes and guides the sexual behavior of the overwhelming majority of gay men, and in so doing effectively pushes some and coerces others Ė I think a great many Ė into having a type of sex that they donít really enjoy and would not, on their own, aspire to.
The real question, I think, is why thereís so much resistance to looking at the culture of anal sex. In part of course itís because anal sex plays so neatly into a patriarchal, dualistic, and essentially puritanical model of sex and relationship, but I suspect that itís also a consequence of decisions made in the community in 1984, when the first safer sex campaigns were being formulated.
At that time, we were under unrelenting assault by homophobic and erotophobic bigots who wanted to persecute those who engaged in anal sex and to cruelly stigmatize those who were dying of a disease spread anally. And we all felt, and rightly so, that we had to defend our own people.
So rather than look too closely at the culture of anal sex, which by then was almost 10 years old, social workers and sex therapists and others came up with safer sex guidelines which were nonjudgmental and uncritical, and which by and large accepted that anal sex was the key element in most gay sexual encounters.
And I think thereís still a strong residual feeling in the community that we ought never to attack anal sex, that doing so plays into the hands of our enemies.
But what Iím trying to get across to people is that times have changed, and that though weíre certainly not free of straight erotophobia, AIDS is no longer a reason for defending anal sex, quite the opposite, that our uncritical acceptance of the dominance of anal sex is, in my view, prolonging the epidemic by leading to new infections Ė I think the barebacking debacle made that more than clear.
So Iím arguing that anal sex has become a sacred cow, and one that we can no longer afford to unquestioningly protect. Instead we need to look very hard at the cultural dominance of this behavior, which can be deadly, and which is oppressive.
Jack Nichols: I lived at ground zero in the 1960s-70s sex revolution. I edited the worldís oldest sex therapy magazine, Sexology, and was the first managing editor of SCREW (1968-69) and the co-editor of the original GAY (1969-1973).
My lover and I once wrote an article singing the praises of anal sex, knowing how it had previously suffered so many disparaging digs. The article was titled: ĎCornholing is Christlikeí. But I never really thought of anal sex as superior in any way to other sexual positions. Do you think thereís such a thing as a superior position? Is Cockrub superior?
Bill Weintraub: Great title! As to Christlike Ė I donít think that anal sex in and of itself is inferior to cockrubbing, but I do think that the way anal sex is presently practiced by the overwhelming majority of American gay men is psychologically, spiritually, and physically damaging.
Cockrubbing, on the other hand, does not pose a health risk, does not play into the top/bottom, dominant/submissive mindset which I believe is terribly harmful to gay men, and emphasizes equality, sensuality, and prolonged full body pleasure, rather than a quick, anonymous fuck in which one man dominates another.
In addition, thereís a certain innocence and naturalness to cockrubbing that I think anal sex has lost. For many men, cockrubbing is their first experience of gay sex, something that, in the course of boyhood tussling or perhaps a sleepover, happens spontaneously.
Itís not something that has to be taught, it doesnít require a script or a set of societal guidelines. And most guys into cockrubbing will tell you that as adults it continues to feel instinctive, uncontrived and unconstrained, primeval and free.
Anal sex, on the other hand, has now become so formalized and goal-driven, so hemmed in by health precautions, so often associated with drug use, and so co-opted by the condom, lube, and porn industries, that I think for many gay men itís become a morass, a dangerous act between two unequal partners that has to be carefully negotiated, planned for and even financed Ė condoms and drugs, after all, are expensive, a trip to the doctor even more so.
Itís difficult to imagine that sort of sex having the playfulness and spontaneity that cockrub offers. And I just donít think thatís what sex is about, or what it should be about.
Now obviously there are guys out there who are practicing anal sex safely and lovingly and joyously. But I donít think theyíre anywhere near the majority.
In any case, as Iíve made clear starting with my first cockrub article, "Hyacinthine Love," no one in the cockrub movement has any interest in substituting one oppression for another. But we do want our form of sex recognized for the wondrous, hot, romantic, love and life affirming experience it is, and we think that a whole complex of attitudes around anal sex need to be looked at very hard.
Jack Nichols: I tend to view the maleís fear of anal sex as stemming from machismoís warrior values: a warrior, in other words, who doesnít ever permit invasion. He eschews receptivity and passivity as Ďfeminine traitsí and therefore anxiously repels the very thought of an invader. Donít you think there are lots of males in this boat?
Bill Weintraub: Jack, I donít know about every male, but I do know about men who are into cockrubbing, and I can tell you that just as itís now understood that men donít become gay out of a fear of penetrating women, so itís really vital that our community come to understand that those of us who like to rub cocks arenít into it because weíre afraid of anal invasion. Weíre into cockrubbing because we love it, itís what turns us on and fulfills us sexually and romantically.
Let me add that I donít think itís automatically the case that warriors or warrior cultures are fearful of anal penetration. In both ancient Greece and medieval Japan, for example, there were warrior cultures in which there was a great deal of joyful anal sex without loss of status for the warrior being penetrated.
In general, I donít think the issue is anal sex. I think the issue is homosex, and I think that in our own culture there are two separate traditions around homosex. The first comes out of the Greeks and Celts and other northern European patriarchal invaders who conquered earth mother or earth goddess cultures but assimilated a fair amount of their content. Those cultures, particularly in their pre-Christian aspects, tended to be tolerant of homosex.
The other comes out of the Hebrews, who also conquered earth goddess cultures, but attempted to utterly exterminate and extirpate the matriarchal content as well as the people. That culture has always been erotophobic and homophobic.
The struggle between these two cultural currents persists in European-American culture to this day. To the extent that we are influenced by the norms of Greek and other early European cultures, we are of a rational and inquiring frame of mind, we value individual liberty and freedom of thought, and are tolerant of diversity, including sexual diversity.
But to the extent that we are heirs of the various peoples who look to a divinely inspired book that dictates how to live, we are irrational, superstitious, authoritarian, and intolerant.
Now, speaking as a person whoís often been attracted to warrior ideals and behavior, whoís done a lot of karate and self-defense training for example, I can tell you that I donít fear anal invasion. I simply donít enjoy it. Thereís a big difference.
As I discussed in "Hyacinthine Love," Iíve been fucked a fair amount. It just doesnít do anything for me, Jack, it simply doesnít turn me on. It doesnít get me hard. It doesnít get me off. I never think about it, just as I never think about sleeping with a woman, unless some visual depiction of it, such as in porn, is put in front of me. And even then, as soon as the porn is over, I forget about it. I never fantasize about anal sex, I never jerk off to thoughts of anal sex, anal sex, whether itís penetrating or being penetrated, is as foreign to me as straight sex.
What is very disturbing to me in this discussion, just as it was 30 years ago in our discussions with heterosexuals, is the unwillingness of other gay men to listen to me and the other men into cockrubbing whoíve come forward and said, We donít like anal sex, but we really love cockrubbing. Itís as though everyoneís gone willfully deaf, and the best they can do is try to psychologize away our differences Ė just like straight people used to do.
But the whole point of gay liberation was to encourage people to discover and express their authentic sexualities. It most certainly was not and is not to impose another set of exterior values on what is the most interior and, I believe, sacred act of our lives.
So it should really be enough for me to say that anal sex doesnít interest me, without people suggesting to me that Iím afraid of anal invasion or shit-phobic or anything else. This sort of sexual intolerance, which as Iíve said is part and parcel of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic worldview, is terribly disturbing and very dangerous.
Now I know that there are those who will accuse me of having a double standard, of questioning anal sex when I wonít tolerate a questioning of cockrubbing. But, in point of fact, and as Iíve said, I wouldnít care about anal sex were it not constantly being thrust upon me, just as I am basically indifferent to what straight people or lesbians may or may not be doing.
But since anal sex is such an enormous part of gay male culture, and since it is held up as a cultural ideal, I think itís fair game, and I think that when we look at it dispassionately, we can see a lot of problems, problems that cockrubbing just doesnít present.
Just as 30 years ago the heterosexual dictatorship was unrelentingly present in our lives, so what I have termed the Buttfuck Dictatorship is constantly in the face of guys who arenít into anal sex, and with it all the unpleasant side-effects of anality Ė the depressing and oppressive culture of tops and bottoms, the self-loathing parodic femininity, and the terrible diseases Ė all of which permeate gay male life, and which you canít escape, even if youíre not into anal sex.
To me the buttfuck dictatorship is like one of those schoolroom bullies who repeatedly hits the kid sitting in front of him in the back of the head. Finally, the day comes when that kid turns around and punches him out. But if the bully had simply left the kid alone, they would never have interacted.
Jack Nichols: When I met one of my earliest macho lovers, he mistook my cruising as meaning I might want to fight him. His hillbilly dad had told him never to let a guy who wanted to fight to get behind him.
He backed up against a wall. But, I must admit, the shape of his curvaceous butt, when he finally trusted me to walk away with him, became impossible to ignore. Many more women than men realize, admire mensí butts. They have no desire to penetrate them, Iíd assume, but gay men attracted by the same luscious curves could hardly be expected to refrain from at least considering penetration, wouldnít you say? Isnít it mainly because of the possibility of diseaseóspecifically AIDSóthat you advise that there should be no more anal sex?
Bill Weintraub: No. And never for a moment have I called for the banning of anal sex. Again, that would simply substitute one oppression for another. But what I have called for is an end to the cultural dominance of anal sex, which without a doubt is perpetuating the epidemic.
In my view this is not complicated. For the last 25 years, gay men have been told over and over that anal intercourse is the most important, the best, and the truest expression of male-male intimacy, and should be the culminating event of any act of male-male sex or love.
If thatís so, if anal sex is the best gay sex, then clearly its highest expression is flesh on flesh, unprotected anal sex.
So itís not surprising that most men sooner or later, in a moment of high passion or simple lust, bareback.
Itís not realistic, it is not human, to expect people to behave otherwise. Sex, after all, is one of the most important experiences of our lives - with the right person, perhaps the most important.
How then can we ask people, once weíve told them that anal sex is the best sex, the sex that defines who we are as gay men, the sex that is the most profound celebration of love between two men, to forever have that millimeter of latex between them and their partners?
We canít, and they wonít.
So in order to stop the epidemic, in the sense of stopping new infections, we as a community have to look really hard at the cultural assumptions underlying the dominance of anal sex in gay male life.
Thatís the only way to do it. Itís simply not enough to tell people to be safe. As long as man penetrating man is celebrated as the ultimate gay sex act, as long as cockrubbing and JO and a host of other forms of sex are sneered at as marginal and incomplete, people will continue to have unsafe anal sex. That is the logic of the cultural dominance of anal sex, and it is inescapable.
That, Jack, is why I have been acting with increasing urgency over the last year. This is not simply an academic matter of sexual politics, nor is it a question of occasional hurt feelings when some guy into frot gets rejected. Itís a matter of life and death.
We need to convey to people that cockrubbing, among other acts, can be every bit as intense, as passionate, and as intimate as butt-fucking. If we donít do that, if we allow the myth of anal supremacy to stand, then the best we can do is sit back and wait for the next wave of new infections.
Thatís why Iím so angry at the HIV magazine POZ, which has refused for a year now to publish a link to my original article (in which I talk in great detail about the romance and passion of cockrub), or carry any other serious discussion of sexual alternatives. POZ helped orchestrate the barebacking campaign. That gives it a particular responsibility to help people find their way out of the anal abyss. Yet its publisher and editor refuse to do so. I think their attitude and actions have been disgraceful Ė they no longer deserve the communityís trust.
And once again thereís that omnipresent question of self hate. Larry Kramer has said repeatedly that no other minority would tolerate the level of death we have. Heís right. We accept it because too many of us think we deserve to die. So here we have the nationís biggest AIDS magazine saying itís cool, analís cool, weíre not gonna think about it Ė and more people will suffer and perish.
But I have no doubt that if we end the cultural dominance of anal sex, weíll see a terrific drop-off in new infections.
Jack Nichols: In your gripping essay about Cockrub Warriors, Iíd say that youíve raised a legitimate call for our communities to consider fostering a wider sort of sensual awareness in our lives.
Iíve always thought that in their sex lives, without knowing much about sensuality, people become far too goal-oriented, which spoils that playful, spontaneous, unplanned element that I personally associate with journeys into mutually satisfying sex.
One thing Iíve thought about your Cockrub perspective is that it might very well provide a safer bridge for many conventional males whoíve been role-trained to repel invasion of any sort. What you offer makes same-sex romance and intimacy much more possible for these guys instead of so frightening.
Iím willing to bet that if Cockrub ideas were better known, many more men would feel safe exploring their homosexual potentials. Have you thought about how your perspective could serve as a cross-over point for such guys? For the bi-curious and for philandering straight men?
Bill Weintraub: Yes, and clearly thatís already happening. If you look at my club or a club like manlylatinoís ĎCock to Cock Jack Offí on Yahoo, youíll see that both have many members who identify either as bi or straight.
As a matter of fact, I just had an email exchange with one of my club members who differed when I described him as bi. He said to me, my relational life is totally heterosexual, I just like to fool around with a few male friends. And I said, well, I donít care what you call it, so long as youíre enjoying it.
But again, I donít necessarily agree with you about repelling invaders. I would suggest that something else is going on, once again something that the gay establishment doesnít want to look at.
And that is an understandable distaste on the part of bi and straight men for what I call that parody of femininity that one sees most clearly in drag, but that comes out all the time in gay male life in bitchiness, attitude, and the use of she, her and girl to refer to other gay men.
Those are among the most unpleasant and unattractive elements in gay male life, and if I were a straight man with a mild interest in sex with other men, or a bi curious guy, I wouldnít want to go anywhere near them.
As I said in my essay, this parody of the feminine should not be confused with the psychologically desirable male goal of becoming aware of and comfortable with the intuitive or feminine part of oneís nature. Drag and the "bottom" mentality, the pussyboy, bitchboy, mancunt culture, have nothing to do with that. They have to do rather with internalizing a self-loathing caricature of what a woman is and what a gay man is.
And I donít think you can separate that phony feminization from the dominant culture of anal sex. I think they are part and parcel of each other. And I think we really need to look at it, and look at the way straight people, not just bigots, perceive gay men, and think about our continuing rejection by large segments of American life, including the electorate, and begin to take some responsibility for the truly unpleasant sides of gay male life.
I donít think itís treasonable to say that Ė on the contrary, I think it has to be said. And I sincerely believe, and I sure hope, that in the not-too-distant future, drag and feminization will be looked at the way we now view Stepin Fetchit and Butterfly McQueen Ė as terrible distortions that their respective minorities were able to outgrow.
Jack Nichols: While I agree with ever so much of what you have to say, I seriously doubt that anal sex will ever disappear altogether, though its current domination of the American social scene may very well subside. Iíve been wondering: on the one hand, you seem to praise an earlier era when several sex acts stood on equal ground.
On the other, however, your polemics seem to be using anal sex as a demon. A devil figure, Eric Hoffer writes, is what every successful mass movement needs in order to grow. People need to have some evil that they will willingly work, en masse, to supplant.
Iíd like to know, would you want to return to those sexual smorgasbord days when a variety of acts were found equal and acceptable? Or do you think that anal sex should no longer be a part of the mix?
Bill Weintraub: First of all Jack, saying that we are demonizing the culture of anal sex is a bit like saying the anti-fascist movement demonized the Nazis. The anal sex establishment is a tyranny that brooks no opposition.
I tried for years to be heard in the major gay media about what is an obvious problem, and was refused and rejected at every turn. And I think that when people behave like oppressors, we have a right to call them oppressors. And to resist them. So I coined the term the Buttfuck Dictatorship. And I have called for its overthrow, not through violence, but through frank, open discussions in the community about what sex now is and what it might be for gay men in the future.
What we in the cockrub movement want is equality. Weíre not interested in replacing one oppressor with another, and we are certain that our actions will improve the sex lives of all gay men.
And obviously anal sex will always be part of the mix. But itís not realistic to imagine that, in the foreseeable future, it will be safe or even wise for gay men to return to the frenzied anal promiscuity of the last 25 years.
So it may be, simply as a working out of the cultural dynamic, that anal sex will once again become unpopular or even denigrated for a time, as it was in your youth. If that happens, Jack, you can expect to find me out in the trenches, defending the rights of guys who like to get fucked.
Jack Nichols: From what I know of your ideas, Iíd say that youíd probably go along, as I do, with the thought that "the personal is political." I think a lot of people have heard that statement but have no idea what it means. The status quo folks have relegated it to the 1960s counterculture and hope to see it buried.
But it would appear that you and I see larger political picturesóculturally acceptable attitudes-- in popular individual sexual acts performed. You seem to see the current cultural dominance of anal sex as part of that old-fashioned patriarchal system to keep the tops on top and the bottoms on the bottom. Am I reading you right? Tell me.
Bill Weintraub: Yes, you sure are. I donít think itís an accident that the dominance of anal sex emerged at the same time that gay male life and American life took a sharp turn to the right, away from counterculture ideals of equality and social justice, and back to that dog-eat-dog puritanical vision of America which persists to this day.
I think a lot of people were uncomfortable with the pace of change, and as the wildly popular Reagan counter-revolution, which had a lot of gay male support, made clear a few years later, many gay men wanted to return to a world with rigidly defined boundaries in everything Ė social class, race, appearance, sex.
And as I said earlier, I think the health crisis, which ironically was a creation of anal sex, made it very difficult to examine what was really going on.
And yes, absolutely, anal sex now has become built into a bloated, wealthy gay establishment that, like the larger culture, is breathtakingly conservative. Itís next to impossible to introduce a new idea with these guys. They know what they know and thatís it. Theyíre comfortable with the status quo, as dreadful as it is, and they donít want anyone rocking the boat.
Of course a lot of this is just a basic class issue. We have an elite now of more-or-less-openly gay white men (and women who think like men) who are doing very well, or so they imagine. Thatís when theyíre not dying of HIV, or losing their health insurance, or struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, or beating up their partners, or pumping themselves full of steroids to look good and Viagara to have sex and Propecia to keep their hair and who-knows-what just to party.
So I think in reality their lives are very rigid and controlled and are filled with self-loathing and that desperate middle-class fear of falling behind, of becoming declassed. And as part of that, they cling to this dangerous and outmoded form of sex.
The thing about cockrub is that it stands completely outside these various patriarchal, capitalist, dom/sub matrices. It prizes equality Ė if the guys are into some sort of contest, then they want a contest of equals. The mindset is so different from anal and the dominant culture that itís remarkable that itís been able to survive.
To do so itís had to go underground. If you look at the ĎWarriors Speakí section of our website http://communities.msn.com/cockrubwarriors you can read accounts of people learning to keep their mouths shut to get by. Itís very painful.
So itís only been in the last year or so that the cockrub guys have felt strong enough, because of the net, to begin to fight back. Thatís a good development, but it may well be dependent upon the net remaining open and free. We donít know if that will happen. Certainly Bush and his gang would like to close it down Ė like the anal establishment, they donít want new ideas floating freely around the ether, they donít like change, they want to keep hold of what grubby little power they have.
And just this week management at Yahoo excluded teens from access to a yahoo club called "wrestling stories," in which cockrubbing is usually featured and thereís very little anal sex Ė some of my own cockrub fiction, aimed directly at teens, first appeared in that club. So where will gay teens go now to have sex modeled for them? Well, there are a lot of anal sites out there, arenít there, lot of bareback sites too. Great story for some reporter Ė "Yahoo! to Gay Kids: Drop Dead."
Jack Nichols: Because I was at ground zero during the 1960s sexual revolution its been easy for me to keep track of its development and of the coups staged by old- fashioned macho-male-role enthusiasts to whom much of the heart of first revolution has since fallen. I think that in some important ways you may agree with me that this has happened. I see a Second Sexual Revolution on the horizonóand you do too, donít you? What are some of the changes your Cockrub Warrior revolution would call for in our communitiesí social/sexual relating?
Bill Weintraub: Yes, Jack, I completely agree with you that the heart of the first revolution fell to macho-male-role enthusiasts. And yes, weíre overdue for another sexual revolution. Weíve been where we are now far too long, in part because of AIDS, in part because the assimilationist gay establishment has allowed the religious right to dictate the terms of the debate. And itís been a disaster. 500,000 dead, terrible self hate which leads to all sorts of other human misery, and an out-dated sexual set-up that simply does not reflect the overall direction of global human development, which is towards more and more individual freedom.
Cockrub Warriors are fighting for tolerance and equality. An end to the promotion of one sex act over another. An end to the sexual posturing and supremacy of domination/submission. An end to the self-loathing false femininity that insults both women and gay men.
And for a celebration of sexual diversity, and of sex that is spontaneous, prolonged, sensual, and full-body.
And for bi and pan sexuality too. A world where sexual energy can float freely again, pass between and among people to do what itís supposed to do, create peace and love Ė not serve as an excuse for more slavery and pain.
Jack Nichols: My view of sex is that its behavioral patterns emerge from influences in the general culture, not because of biological fiat. When I was 12, I had passionate kissing/petting sessions with Iranian diplomatsí boys, but our passions didnít get sexual. It was a very passionate platonic love these kids were showing me then, something my American friends, mostly, did not.
Later, when I was 20, I learned that millions of American Ďstraightí boysómany 1960s Marines in fact-- were willing to do everything sexual in bed except to kiss or talk about last nightís all-male sex in the morning.
The Marines, I noticed, as macho as they considered themselves, often begged to be anally penetrated. A close friend of mine whoíd taught me the military ropes, said he thought it was something about their training in boot camp that made them want to get fucked. He thought it had something to do with the down-grading their commanders had foisted on them. You have some similar theories about the current enthusiasm for male anal sex, donít you?
Bill Weintraub: Yes, I think two things about this. The first, as youíve just suggested, is that many bottoms crave and solicit pain and degradation because they think that, as gay men, thatís what they deserve.
So there are all those punishment scenarios floating around in porn and in real life. Youíve been a bad gay boy, now youíre going to get punished Ė that is, fucked. Folks can call it role play, but itís just another manifestation of self-hate.
But I also think the prevalence of anal sex fits into a gay male culture that in some ways has become more straight than the straights, more royalist than the king. It creates a world that mimics the heterosexuality of our parents Ė or grandparents. And itís certainly not unusual for minorities to do that, to take in the norms of the majority culture and exaggerate them.
In the meantime, however, heterosexuals have moved on. Itís very difficult to imagine a middle-class straight woman accepting the sort of sexual subordination expected of a gay male bottom. Or even many working class women. That was the whole point to Loreena Bobbit.
Life has changed. Gay men havenít.
Jack Nichols: Iíve seen enough joy in the faces of men getting fucked that its hard for me to believe that theyíre inviting mere punishment or pain. A friend recently gave me a video showing an all-male orgy in Miami. I noticed a great deal of affection and cooperation going onóas opposed to typical pushy macho values.
Those who wanted to fuck did, however. Others made exquisite JO circles or enjoyed oral sex. But the video seemed to show an exception to the seeming rule that anal sex is merely a copy of male-female relations--what the1940s pejoratively called a daisy chain.
Except for the first person and the last in this Miami 2000 chain, those who were fucking were getting fucked and, as a result, everyone was on an equal basis. What do you think about that as a sidewinder in the argument that anal sex is always necessarily dominating? Would you be willing to concede that it is less the specific sexual Ďactí-- and possibly more the personal Ďattitudeí that accompanies it---that counts most?
Bill Weintraub: Well, yes and no. I wouldnít say itís so much the personal attitude, although that clearly makes a difference, as it is the prevailing cultural attitude and expectations. I think itís very difficult for most people to go against the prevailing cultural model. But obviously one will encounter, from time to time, people whose conduct transcends the current cultural norm. As I said earlier, Iím sure there are men out there practicing anal sex joyously and lovingly. But I donít think theyíre in the majority Ė not even close.
In any case, what Iíve said from the beginning is that itís not anal sex, but the way itís been practiced in the US for the last 25 years. Was it the same in Athens in 430 BCE? or in Whitmanís America? Of course not. Our generation of gay men emerged after the most brutal period of persecution of homosexuals the world has ever known. I donít think itís surprising that itís taking us a long time to get the kinks out, or that we tend to find and even institutionalize new ways of hating ourselves.
Jack Nichols: My own first sexual experiences with other guysówhen I was 6, 11, 13 and 15 involved what you call frot. Quite honestly, I can still easily climax that way, but Iíve noticed that a lot of guys think they canít. Have you run into that?
Bill Weintraub: Yes, but Iíd put it a bit differently. Itís not just that men think they canít climax that way, itís that they believe that cockrubbing is a junior league form of sex, and that itís degrading or essentially unsatisfying to climax that way.
So they try to sweet talk or pressure you Ė or worse Ė into a more socially acceptable scenario. Itís not uncommon for cockrub guys to have to physically restrain men who want to fuck them. And Iíve got a true life account posted right now in Warriors Speak from a man who sero-converted as the result of unwanted anal penetration.
So youíre constantly coming up against varying levels of coercion Ė ranging from "Gee, youíve got a really nice ass, Iíd really like to fuck you," to "I donít think youíre really gay unless you get fucked," to some guy trying to push you down and climb on top. This is after youíve explained, usually more than once, that youíre really not into getting fucked.
At best itís tiresome, and at worse itís horrific. And that behavior, which Iíve experienced and which I hear about from club members over and over again, is just one more reason to speak of a cultural tyranny of anal sex, and of bullies, and of a buttfuck dictatorship. Because clearly a lot of men think of anal sex as both a right and a necessity.
Jack Nichols: Could you explain in some detail what you consider to be the cockrub joys? What do you see as its merits?
Bill Weintraub: Gladly and with pleasure. As I talk about in "Hyacinthine Love," cockrubbing has always been more than simply a sexual act to me, itís an ethos that I evolved in my childhood and that led me to seek a certain kind of partner, a man I thought of as a hero. To me this man would have mythic qualities, just as I thought my own life did. Whatís remarkable, I think, is that I actually found him, my very own cockrub warrior, my lover Brett Averill, and had a very passionate, very ardent cockrubbing sexual life with him, along with a very romantic relational life, until his death from AIDS.
It was very difficult, in a gay world based upon anal sex and dom/sub and dopey bourgeois values, to do that, to actually find a lover who shared my vision of a union, sexual and otherwise, of two equally noble beings. But I did, and we did.
Now of course most people in America, and in cockrubbing too, do not share my mythic or heroic vision Ė itís very much discouraged and often viewed as being anti-democratic, although, in my writing and in my club, I do all I can to encourage people to recognize both the mythic and heroic elements of their lives, which are almost always there.
In any case, the idea of equality between partners is clearly intrinsic to the cockrub way. I hear that all the time from club members, and you can read about it in Warriors Speak on our site. I think that such equality is really precious. I mean it when I say that it was the great gift of the Greeks to world civilization.
Then thereís the romance of cockrub. The fact that while making love youíre holding each other face to face, heart to heart, cock to cock, and that you may cum together, and be bathed and share in this wonderful male essence.
And too thereís just the anatomical reality that cockrubbing brings together each partnerís most erotically sensitive areas, so that itís physically very intense. And that itís also prolonged and full-body. You feel all of your partnerís body against yours, and thereís no hurry or sense of rushing to a climax, or even that a climax has to occur.
So much of what one sees in anal porn is quick and with the partners barely touching Ė how satisfying can that be? Much of it has to be something thatís being played out in the participantsí heads, not in their bodies. Not so for cockrubbing Ė it is sex in the body, not in the mind.
And, as I said earlier, thereís that cockrub innocence as well. Toby Johnson, editor of White Crane, wrote an article way back in Ď83 for the Native when my lover was editor called "In Defense of Innocence." And he talked about how much of homosex, particularly for the young, lay outside the norms and expectations of straight society, and how that gave it a certain innocence and spontaneity. And to me cockrub still has that, itís not scripted the way straight sex or anal sex so often is. Cockrub is innocent and free and, very often, playful and boyish as well.
And I think thatís good. I donít think we need to be adult all the time, I think one of the most wonderful things about being gay is that we can retain a certain childlike quality. About 20 years ago I met Isherwood, who was at least 70 if not older at the time, but he looked like a little boy, a little boy with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. And I thought, what a wonderful way to have lived oneís life.
So itís curious, I suppose, because to me cockrub has an heroic or warrior aspect, and also this very boyish and innocent quality as well. And thatís how I think of cockrub and myself. I donít think of myself as a man in his 50s. I think of myself still as the boy I was, setting out to find his heroic friend.
Jack Nichols: Bill, I now have a much better understanding about what you and the Cockrub Warriors are saying, and I thank you for that. Youíve made some extraordinarily important points about personal relating and our communities canít afford to ignore them.
Bill Weintraub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cockrub Warriors website is at http://communities.msn.com/cockrubwarriors
Jack Nicholsí latest book, the Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists, published by Prometheus Books, is available through BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.
READ JACK'S COLUMN FROM LAST WEEK
Jack Nichols is Senior Editor at GayToday www.gaytoday.badpuppy.com. Jack Nichols is also the author of Men's Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity (Penguin); Welcome to Fire Island: Visions of Cherry Grove & the Pines (St. Martin's Press); and is co-author with Lige Clarke of I Have More Fun With You Than Anybody (St. Martin's Press); and Roommates Can't Always Be Lovers: An Intimate Guide to Male/Male Relationships (St. Martin's Press)