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The film making us face the idea disabled people have sex

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‘Yes We Fuck’ is an uncompromising look at the reality that disabled people have sex lives too. We caught up with director and disability activist Antonio Centeno to find out more

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Yes We Fuck

As a society we’re becoming more accepting of sexuality in all its guises and forms – and rightly so. 2015 could be seen as the year when trans issues finally broke through into the mainstream after decades spent on the margins of society, while more and more women in particular are joining the sexually fluid revolution. And yet for all of our talk, there’s one conversation that we’re not having – about how disabled people have sex.

Spanish director and disability activist Antonio Centeno wants to tackle this prudishness head-on. His film Yes We Fuck (which is co-directed with Raúl de la Morena) is a no-holds barred look at the world of disabled sexuality, with uncompromising visuals (of people having sex) and a strong sense of moral purpose. Centeno shows human intimacy in all its forms, and what strikes you from watching the film is that the issues faced by disabled people when it comes to their sex lives aren’t so dissimilar to those faced by the rest of the population.

Watching the film, which recently showed at the British Film Institute’s Flare festival, at times makes for uncomfortable viewing. You’re discomfited by the fact that the sexuality depicted on our TVs and in popular culture almost uniformly represents one experience: that of heterosexual intimacy between two able-bodied, cis-gendered people.

Yes We Fuck is an uplifting, refreshing corrective to the narrative that disabled people are in some way sexless, made noble by the struggles they undergo to assimilate into a society that is in many ways ableist. The film isn’t perfect – sections are too long, and while Centeno wants to depict the reality of disabled people having sex, at times the camera lingers too long or in a way that feels intrusive. It’s clear that this is very much a passion project from the fledging director, and one which could perhaps have profited from tauter editing. Nonetheless, it’s rare to see a film which so profoundly makes you confront your own prejudices to recognize that we all of us share a common humanity and a common desire to express that humanity through the most natural act of all – the act of fucking, of course.

To find why we need to get on board with the fact that disabled people fuck like the rest of us, Dazed caught up with Centeno at the BFI. Below is the transcript of our conversation, which has been edited for flow and clarity.

 

Can you give us a bit of background as to why you made Yes We Fuck? Is this an issue that’s particularly close to home for you?

Antonio Centeno: By background I’m an activist and I’ve always advocated for helping disabled people, or those with functional diversity as we prefer to call them, to lead independent lives wherever possible. For us, this is a political issue. If we want people with functional diversity to have real lives – not merely to survive – then we need to be visible sexual beings. We need to break this infantilised image of us as children, to show that people with functional diversity are sexual beings, people who desire and are desired. So by giving them a sexuality, we politicise the issue.

You depict real-life intimacy in the film in a lot of detail. How did you get the participants to trust you?

Antonio Centeno: Many of the people in the film I’d met as activists throughout the years, so they trusted in me and what I was doing. And they understood that the film wasn’t just entertainment, but a political tool to help the change the realities of our society. I mean, of course it was difficult, to expose yourself and put your body out there. But it was only possible because of the trust I enjoyed from them, and the fact they understood what political message we were trying to put out.

What’s the reaction been like?

Antonio Centeno: In my native Spain and internationally there’s been a huge amount of interest and it’s generally been very well received. Some people find it too direct, maybe  there’s too much exposure, and some people thought there were some stories missing as well. But it’s been more difficult getting it out to a wider audience, outside of LGBT and specialist film festivals. And I think this reflects the way in which people with functional diversity live in our society. You know, we live away from the masses, from the general public. We live in ghettos. And by ghettos, I mean special residences, or with families that look after us. We go to special schools, because we have to. We work in special centres. So basically, we live in a parallel world, segregated from other people.

Would you like to see this segregation broken down so everyone is living side-by-side?

Antonio Centeno: Well, I’m not sure about ‘everyone’. I don’t like most people! [Laughs].

The title of the film is quite risque…

Antonio Centeno: In Spain, we have a motto which roughly translates as ‘Fuck as you live, and live as you fuck’. Which means that you can only have your own independent life if you have a sex life which is free, which is independent, which is rich. And you can only have a sex life that is free if you personally are free. If you have a free sex life, you can have a good life. You can fight for your freedom, for your independence. So the film is about how you can show, through sexuality, that people with functional diversity want to live like others, independently, not being cancelled out and made to delegate their decisions through family members or professionals.

What I found interesting about the film is that a lot of the sexual issues that people faced, like guilt or shame, are common to everyone, not just those with functional diversity.

Antonio Centeno: Well, our intention wasn’t just just to show weird people doing weird things. We wanted to deal with general issues, like desire, pleasure, our relationship with our bodies. But basically by focussing on this group of people with functional diversity, we produced this magnifying glass effect…I mean, the issues that they have aren’t so dissimilar from those the rest of the population have. But it’s just magnified in this group.

It’s historically very difficult to depict sex on film. Was this a concern for you? Wanting to show sexuality in a way that was honest without being gratuitous?

Antonio Centeno: Well, I want to start by saying that reality doesn’t exist, as such. We were constructing a reality. And that’s the powerful thing about porn, not that it represents reality but that it constructs reality. If we think about what people think about those with functional diversity, they think that we don’t have sex. So we wanted to put images in the heads of the viewers, so that those images were incompatible with the prejudices that they had.

Is there a danger that we risk sensationalising the issue?

Antonio Centeno: It’s a risk we take, definitely. But if the problem before was people with functional diversity being invisible, and now it’s us being sensationalised, that’s okay with me. For me, it’s important that we construct narratives which don’t just place people with functional diversity between two opposite poles. You know, we have the pariahs, the hopeless people, and then on the other end of the spectrum there’s the hero and it’s all very inspiring, but…I mean, no one actually believes that. It’s reductive. So there are lots of stories that have to be constructed in the middle about people with functional diversity. And that’s what I hope to do.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘If We Want To End Sexual Violence, We Need To Talk About Female Desire’

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“Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear.”

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It might seem strange to be talking about pleasure and desire when we are surrounded by stories of rape and harassment. Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? Shouldn’t we concentrate first on stopping those crimes before we ask for sex that might actually work for us?

I don’t think so. The worst men—and the worst lovers—I have known were the ones who didn’t understand that women, too, want things from sex. That sex is not simply something we give to men—or something men take from us.

These were the men who commented, with a mixture of surprise and revulsion, on how much I actually seemed to enjoy the sex we had, how I acted as though we were sexual equals, as though my own desire mattered—and how unusual that was. I’ve never known what to say to that. I’ve never known whether to pity their ignorance or worry about the other women they have been with, about how those women may have felt forced to deny their desire, to keep their sexual agency secret, even in bed.

Study after study shows that women want sex just as much as men do—but they’re often afraid of the consequences of saying so. The story we tell about how women should behave sexually is one of hesitancy, of submission, of waiting for the man to make the first, second, and last moves. Cajoling a woman into sex is considered normal, hence much of the confusion about women who are now complaining, often for the first time, about men who pressure us into sex we don’t want to have.

Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear. But there are still too many people out there who believe that it is enough for sex to not be painful or frightening for a woman. One recent study showed that 32 percent of college-age men said they would commit or had committed acts of violence against women that courts would describe as rape, but when asked if they would ever rape a woman, most said no. This is rape culture; nonconsensual sex is normalized and, as long as we don’t call it rape, tolerated.

There are still very few societies that are truly comfortable with women having sexual and reproductive agency—in other words, the right to choose when and if and how we have sex, and when and if and how we have children. All over the world, including in the United States, the basic assumption made about women by their governments and employers and families is that we do not deserve to decide what happens to our bodies—and we cannot be trusted to tell the truth about our experiences. This is sexual repression, and we must fight it.

We must also fight against internalizing it. The consequences of capitulating to what our bodies seem to want—whether it be an orgasm or another slice of cake—are made very clear to girls long before puberty turns up the dial on desire. We must not be too hungry, too horny, too greedy for anything in life, or we will become ugly, unlovable. Women who eat too much, talk too much, shag too much—women who want too much—will face shame, stigma, and ostracism. We must not lose control.

When you’ve learned to be suspicious of your own appetites, it takes time to treat yourself and your body with more kindness. How can we be honest with anyone else about our desires when “slut” is still one of the worst things you can call a woman, when women who openly enjoy or seek out sex are shamed for it, and men who do the same are celebrated?

For women and queer people, for anyone whose sexuality has been treated as abnormal and punished, and particularly for those who’ve survived sexual violence, it can be very hard to be honest about what we might want in bed, even with ourselves. That’s alright. It’s okay not to know what you want, as long as you know that the wanting itself is okay. This isn’t going to change overnight. But I know I’ve had more positive experiences than negative ones when I insisted on making my desires clear. Being able to ask for what you want is the first step toward real sexual liberation. The sort that works for everyone.

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Love All: The Art Of Polyamory

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As polyamory enters the mainstream, could a relationship revolution be under way?

By Rowan Pelling

One bright spring day last year I was idly browsing Facebook when my friend Dr Kate Devlin (a lecturer in artificial intelligence at Goldsmiths) updated her status from “single” to “in an open relationship”. Since I’m 49 and live in uptight, windswept Cambridge, rather than a sex-positive community in San Diego, this was a social-media first for me. It seemed clear the polyamory movement in Britain had finally achieved critical mass. There had been plenty of portents. First, the fact that the term polyamory, coined in 1992, entered the Oxford English Dictionary in September 2006, defined as “having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals… the custom or practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned”. Meanwhile, female friends on Tinder kept being asked if they’d consider forming part of a love quadrangle. And I noticed people in my circle citing Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy’s The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities (the bible for consensual non-monogamists).

Then there were the celebrity polyamorists. Author Neil Gaiman and his musician wife Amanda Palmer have never made a secret of the fact that they both took lovers, with each other’s consent; although their set-up has reportedly become more conventional since they have had a child. Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith once posted on Facebook, “Will and I both can do whatever we want, because we trust each other to do so. This does not mean we have an open relationship… this means we have a grown one.” Which sounds pretty much like your average polyamorist explaining why their ménage is an expansive, loving set of mutually agreeable arrangements, rather than a free-for-all. And Tilda Swinton became the poster girl for every mother who feels that, much as she loves the father of her children, she wouldn’t mind shifting him to another part of the house while she moves in her drop-dead sexy lover.

When news of Swinton’s unconventional domestic arrangements first broke, my husband said: “That’s the life you’d like, isn’t it?” I pointed out that John Byrne, the father of Swinton’s twins, has a croft he can escape to on his own, to read books and write: “You’d love that, wouldn’t you?” It seemed an excellent quid pro quo – especially for couples who aren’t each other’s gatekeeper and don’t give a fig what curtain-twitching moralists think. Throughout our 24-year relationship, my husband has never attempted to curtail my movements, and confesses himself “infinitely puzzled by men who are physically possessive”. Indeed, I’ve only been able to pursue my line of work (delving into erotic literature and sexuality) because he’s totally unruffled if I say, “I’ve got to go to San Francisco to interview the leader of the Orgasmic Meditation movement.” In similar spirit, I don’t question my spouse’s deeply entrenched desire to do no socialising whatsoever, to eschew travel and to potter round the house pondering metaphysical dilemmas as well as the contents of our two boys’ school lunch boxes. We have lost four parents and a beloved step-parent between us, as well as our first pregnancy (a baby with a terrible chromosomal disorder), so we know what heartbreak means and that profound love entails a level of kindness and support that goes way beyond sex.

But then nobody is too surprised when editors of erotic magazines, aristos or bohemians lead unconventional lives. For me, the significant thing about my friend Kate Devlin’s post was that it marked the moment when I first witnessed a bunch of well-heeled professionals all nod and say, “Good for you!”, rather than falling silent or expressing surprise. I sent her a message offering congratulations and suggesting polyamory would make a great article for my magazine The Amorist, which explores passion and sexuality. She replied, “I’m already halfway through.” The finished piece caused a bit of a stir, and a version was reprinted in The Times. Kate explained that she had one lover who occupied more space in her life than the other, who she saw once a month (both men also had at least one other regular partner), but that it worked for all of them, and she concluded, “I am content though. Happy, definitely, in a way that I couldn’t be if I were with just one person. I am fascinated by people and delight in learning more about each one… I know polyamory is not for everyone. There are degrees of it that are not for me. I’m tentatively feeling my way blindly because the familiar social structures aren’t in place, but it’s OK. It’s OK. I remind myself that it’s OK. For every pang of insecurity, I have an equal and opposite panic about being trapped. Then my heart lifts as I remember: I’m not.”

For decades, the notion of a complex, open-sided set of mostly heterosexual relationships has been associated with the more baroque excesses of the 1970s – along with key parties, pampas grass, shag-pile carpets and the bearded man from The Joy of Sex. It’s no surprise that this is viewed as the decade of carefree sexual exploration. Lovers benefited from the advent of the contraceptive pill: the first time an entire generation of women had been freed from fear of pregnancy. It was also an age of relative innocence, before the Aids pandemic and doomy sexual-health ads terrified the populace back into serial monogamy. But it was also an age when the bearded man had the upper hand. The general consensus was that “free love” was imposed by randy men on unwilling women, and that it never really worked; someone was always left sobbing and abandoned in the corner. Joni Mitchell spoke for many when she said, “It’s a ruse for guys.”

The only problem with that point of view is that monogamy clearly doesn’t work either. One-on-one is clearly the best way to proceed when you’re in those electrifying early years of love: the space when you’re so narcotically in thrall to your beloved that everyone else seems faintly repugnant. And monogamy certainly works while your cultural inhibitions, religious sensibilities, or sense of loyalty and duty to shared family, friends or children outweigh all other considerations. But, eventually, so the statistics tell us, only the fortunate minority feel a deep, abiding, unconflicted contentment in one person’s arms over an entire lifetime. The other 70 or so per cent of humans in the Western world will be unfaithful at least once in their lifetime. Divorce rates now run at well over 40 per cent in Britain and America. The certainty of adultery, heartbreak and pain is the other great inconvenient truth of our times. Which is why New York-based relationship guru Esther Perel recently published The State of Affairs, which attempts to explore the myriad reasons for infidelity and to look at how couples can not only survive betrayal but learn from it and even become stronger. The prevalent myth Perel seeks to dispel is the notion that one person can be everything to another: soul mate, lover, best friend, fellow adventurer and co-parent. In her view, adultery is often about the desire to reinvent the self and become fresh and fascinating in another’s eyes, rather than an active wish to reject the best beloved.

So what does a pragmatic, ethical individual do if they don’t ever want to behave like a lying, cheating love rat to the person they adore? For increasing numbers of people admitting to an enduring libido, the logical answer is polyamory. Now if, like me, you’ve knocked about a bit, you’re going to find the concept far older and more familiar than something supposedly invented at the tail end of the 20th century. Many in the LGBT community laugh at polyamory being some form of novel arrangement. The gay writer and comedian Rosie Wilby, whose book Is Monogamy Dead? was published last year, told me, “The LGBT community has experimented with forms of non-monogamy for decades. If you’re already doing something that has been widely viewed as ‘deviant’, then trying out another deviance from the norm has never felt like too big a jump. So it’s hardly a new concept for us.”

Indeed not. Think of the sexually fluid Bloomsbury set, who Dorothy Parker famously described as having “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles”. Many Edwardians – generally intellectuals, radicals and the upper classes – thought a free and open pass on fidelity was a practical way to go about things. After all, this was an era where the king himself – Victoria’s playboy son, Edward VII – was known to have taken many mistresses, including actresses Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry. It was also an idyll, a long-skirted, Arts and Crafts summer of love, which followed the more fixed morality of the Victorian era and flourished before the terrible devastation of the First World War. Proponents of unusual erotic arrangements were everywhere, from Vita Sackville-West (lover of Virginia Woolf) and her husband Harold Nicolson to the children’s author Edith Nesbit, who shared a house with spouse Hubert Bland and his mistress Alice Hoatson. Nesbit even raised Hoatson’s two children by Bland. Sexual experimentation started at the top. Meanwhile, last winter’s arthouse cinema hit Professor Marston and the Wonder Women dramatised the story of psychologist William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, who lived with wife Elizabeth and mistress Olive Byrne.

Complete Article HERE!

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Keeping the spark alive in long-term relationships

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by Whitney Harder

It’s a well-known fact that sexual desire ebbs and flows throughout the life of a long-term relationship for a number of reasons. Questions like “What factors increase and decrease desire?” and “How can couples work through those factors?” have long been topics of interest for researchers and clinicians, but dozens of studies respond to those questions with different answers.

Research by University of Kentucky Associate Professor Kristen Mark brings decades of findings together to help researchers, clinicians and couples understand where the science stands in a new issue of the Journal of Sex Research.

First thing’s first: It’s okay to have low or changing desire, and it doesn’t mean your relationship is headed toward a dead end.

“Maintaining desire is complicated and multidimensional, but low desire is not necessarily indicative of relationship issues,” said Mark, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab and faculty member in the UK College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion.

If relationship issues aren’t causing the drop in desire, what is the cause? Mark and doctoral student Julie Lasslo identified several nonclinical factors in their study and how couples can work past them:

Gendered Expectations

Gender differences are often assumed, with expectations placed on men to always be ready for sex and expectations placed on women to be the gatekeepers of sex. “Women may express having less desire than men, but often that’s because women are not taught to pursue sex or that sexual desire and pleasure should be important to them,” Mark said. “Alternately, men are expected to be the pursuers of sex and to always be ready and willing. When they don’t fit that stereotype, it can be particularly difficult to address within the relationship.” Those expectations are played out across society, especially in pop culture, and can create issues for long-term relationships. What can couples do? Communicate with each other and acknowledge that these societal factors exist and may be contributing to the difficulty around desire—some may be entirely unaware of the influence of societal expectations.

Self-expansion is another important factor. When two individuals try to become one—how many think of a long-term relationship—”that’s a desire killer,” Mark said. It’s important to maintain a level of autonomy, where each individual focuses on expanding themselves, to have space for desire to grow. “Sexual desire is like fire, and fire needs air,” Mark said. “By becoming completely enmeshed with a partner, abandoning all autonomy, the excitement of the unknown is entirely removed from the relationship; and this can be problematic for maintaining sexual desire.”

In fact, individual sexual desire fluctuates over time, no matter what the relationship is like. Sexual desire is not a stable trait, “and if individuals and couples anticipate the fluctuation, there will be much less of a negative impact,” Mark said. For example, desire may decrease when someone experiences a job transition or faces uncertainty about their future, and may increase when children leave for school or college. “There are a variety of factors that impact individual-level sexual desire, many of which may have nothing to do with the relationship,” said Mark. “Having the expectation that these natural fluctuations exist helps to prevent negative influences of sexual desire discrepancy on the relationship.”

Individuals wanting to maintain desire in their long-term relationship can also focus on their own psyche, working to manage stress and improve confidence. “If someone is tired, stressed and lacking personal confidence, it is understandable that they may not want to have sex,” Mark said.

Of course, other factors include sexual compatibility, attraction and attitudes toward sex. So, what does all this mean? It means that desire is no simple issue, and a simple one-size-fits-all approach to the issue, such as medication, can be short-sighted, Mark said.

To help other researchers build on this topic and to help couples think about what impacts their own desire, Mark and Lasslo developed a conceptual model comprising individual, interpersonal and societal components, with individual and interpersonal factors interacting and societal factors serving as the context in which sexual desire is experienced.

“But there are still gaps to fill,” Mark said. “There’s definitely a need for more research on the complexity of sexual desire, particularly the similarities or differences of sexual desire experienced in sexual minority relationships and racial minority relationships.”

Some of Mark’s current research with her interdisciplinary team in the Sexual Health Promotion Lab is aimed at filling these gaps.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Homophobia Has Robbed Men Of Touch

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The pathological fear of even platonic contact has created a generation of men plagued by loneliness and anxiety.

I wrote an article in which I asked people to consider the following: American men, in an attempt to avoid any possible hint of committing unwanted sexual touch, are foregoing gentle platonic touch in their lives.

I call it touch isolation.

Homophobic social stigmas, the long-standing challenges of rampant sexual harassment and abuse, and a society steeped in a generations-old puritanical mistrust of physical pleasure have created an isolating trap in which American men can go for days (or weeks) without touching another human being.

The implications of touch isolation for men’s health and happiness are huge.

Gentle platonic touch is central to the early development of infants. It continues to play an important role throughout men and women’s lives in terms of our development, health and emotional well being, right into old age. When I talk about gentle platonic touch, I’m not talking about a pat on the back, or a handshake, but instead contact that is sustained and meant to provide connection and comfort: Leaning on someone for a few minutes, holding hands, rubbing their back or sitting close together not out of necessity but out of choice.

Yet, culturally, gentle platonic touch is the one thing we suppress culturally in men and it starts when they are very young boys.

While babies and toddlers are held, cuddled, and encouraged to practice gentle touch during their first years of their lives, that contact often drops off for boys when they cease to be toddlers. Boys are encouraged to “shake it off” and “be tough” when they are hurt.

Along with the introduction of this “get tough” narrative, boys find that their options for gentle platonic touch simply fade away. Mothers and fathers often back off from holding or cuddling their young boys. Boys who seek physical holding as comfort when hurt are stigmatized as “cry babies.”

By the time they are approaching puberty, many boys have learned to touch only in aggressive ways through rough housing or team sports. And if they do seek gentle touch in their lives, it is expected to take place in the exclusive and highly sexualized context of dating. This puts massive amounts of pressure on young girls; young girls who are unlikely to be able to shoulder such a burden. Because of the lack of alternative outlets for touch, the touch depravation faced by young boys who are unable to find a girlfriend is overwhelming. And what about boys who are gay? In a nutshell, we leave children in their early teens to undo a lifetime of touch aversion and physical isolation. The emotional impact of coming of age in our touch-averse, homophobic culture is terribly damaging. It’s no wonder our young people face a epidemic of sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy, rape, drug and alcohol abuse.

In America, in particular, if a young man attempts gentle platonic contact with another young man, he faces a very real risk of homophobic backlash either by that person or by those who witness the contact. This is, in part, because we frame all contact by men as being intentionally sexual until proven otherwise. Couple this with the homophobia that runs rampant in our culture, and you get a recipe for increased touch isolation that damages the lives of the vast majority of men.

And if you think men have always been hands-off with each other, have a look at an amazing collection of historic photos compiled by Brett and Kate McKay in their article Bosom Buddies: A Photo History of Male Affection. It’s a remarkable look at male camaraderie as expressed though physical touch in photos dating back to the earliest days of photography.

As the McKays note:

“At the turn of the 20th century… Thinking of men as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” became common. And this new category of identity was at the same time pathologized—decried by psychiatrists as a mental illness, by ministers as a perversion, and by politicians as something to be legislated against.

“As this new conception of homosexuality as a stigmatized and onerous identifier took root in American culture, men began to be much more careful to not send messages to other men, and to women, that they were gay. And this is the reason why, it is theorized, men have become less comfortable with showing affection towards each other over the last century.”

Spend some time looking at these remarkable images. You’ll get a visceral sense of what has been lost to men.

These days, put 10 people in the room when two men touch a moment too long, and someone will make a mean joke, express distaste, or even pick a fight. And its just as likely to be a woman as to be a man who enforces the homophobic/touch averse stigma. The enforcement of touch prohibition between men can be as subtle as a raised eyebrow or as punitive as a fist fight and you never know where it will come from or how quickly it will escalate.

And yet, we know that touch between men or women is proven to be a source of comfort, connection and self-esteem. But while women are allowed much more public contact, men are not. Because how we allow men to perform masculinity is actually very restrictive. (Charlie Glickman writes quite eloquently about this in an article for The Good Men Project. Read it. It’s a real eye opener.)

Male touch isolation is one of many powerful reasons why I support marriage equality. The sooner being gay is completely normalized, the sooner homophobic prohibitions against touch will be taken off straight men. As much as gay men have faced the brunt of homophobic violence, straight men have been banished to a desert of physical isolation by these same homophobic fanatics who police lesbians and gays in our society. The result has been a generation of American men who do not hug each other, do not hold hands and can not sit close together without the homophobic litmus test kicking in.’

The lack of touch in men’s lives results in a higher likelihood of depression, alcoholism, mental and physical illness. Put simply, touch isolation is making men’s lives less healthy and more lonely.

When visiting my 87-year-old father for a few days, I made a point to touch him more. To make contact. To express my affection, not just by flying a thousand miles for a visit, but to touch the man once I got there. It may seem simple, but choosing to do so is not always a simple thing. It can raise a lifetime of internal voices, many of which speak of loss and missed opportunities. But I hugged him. I put my arm around him as we shared a cigar and cocktails. I touched him whenever I walked past his chair.

Each evening, we would watch a movie. As part of that nightly ritual, I would sit in the floor, take off his shoes and socks and rub his bare feet for while. It is something I will remember when he is gone. Something I did right. Something that said to him, I love you. Spoken on the same deep touch levels by which he connected with me when I was a toddler sitting next to him, his strong arm around me as I watched the late show 50 years ago.

This touch thing is so crucial: I kiss and hug my son constantly. He sits with me—and on me. I make a point of connecting with him physically whenever I greet him. The physical connection I have with him has been transformative in my life teaching me about my value as a human being and a father.

We need to empower men to touch. We need to fix our sexually repressed (and sexually obsessed) American culture and put an end to distorted and hateful parts of our culture that allow homophobic people to police all men everywhere down to the very tips of our fingertips.

It’s too late in my life for the impact of these stigmas to be fully undone, but I have great hope for my son. When we collectively normalize gay life and relationships, my son, whatever his sexual orientation turns out to be, will be free to express platonic affection for others, be they men or women, in any way he sees fit. The rabid homophobes who have preached hate in America for far too long will finally be silenced, and men will be free to reach out and touch each other without fear of being labeled as somehow less of a man.

It’s a dream for a better America I can already see coming true.

Complete Article HERE!

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