In the last 20 years here on the most visible level in the American media, gay sexuality has become well integrated into capital production where same sex desire is market as commodity.
The selling of queer sexuality started as a very lucrative niche market, exemplified by the importing of such British products as the Queer As Folk series.
Now we have a whole media industry predicated on the supersexing of the homosexual "lifestyle".
Cable networks like LOGO and Here! TV are dedicated to queer markets as they compete with network productions whose TV shows like Will And Grace, and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy direct heterosexuals towards some kind of distanced homo empathy if not outright emulation.
Ironically, these gay oriented production companies are subsidiaries of the mainstream (read: Hetero identified) media industry LOGO for example, which runs the American version of Queer As Folk is owned by Viacom International, Inc. whose other main product is the youth targeted MTV, whose reality based series The Real World helped usher the notion of gay personalities into the puritanical American home. Similarly, the mainstream cable network Showtime is the vehicle for the popular, steamy lesbian themed night time soap opera The L Word. A forerunner to these directly gay themed programming was HBO's prison series OZ which regularly featured gritty rough sex between male inmates to the extent that it established homosexual relationships - mostly under the assumption that hot violent same sex prison relationships mainly exist by necessity because of the absence of women. HBO's current series the mafia themed Sopranos featured a recent storyline where a main character, one of the inner circle mobsters comes out.
About seven years ago I went to Los Angeles with a video I'd made that had been accepted to Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay And Lesbian Film Festival. I was told that this is the L.A.'s biggest international film festival supported by the most influential studios and distributors in the industry. I discovered that many of the most prominent and influential studio executives, directors and producers, agents, managers, cinematographers, etcetera in Los Angeles, where much of America's media production generates, are so openly gay. It seems to ok to be out in every aspect of production EXCEPT acting. Because despite occasional charges of a "gay Hollywood mafia", the industry at large projects itself as heterosexual, much in the way that the output of old Hollywood, whose moguls, the studio and theater chain owners, producers, directors and directors were Jewish, reinforced the cultural values of a gentile, if not outright WASPish idealism.
As media fantasy factors more and more as a tool for producing manufactured desire, and as we increasingly accept the impact of the ways in which virtual perception replace and even substitute for physical stimulus we have come to embrace the notion of "reality" as a primary value.
Since the end of AIDS activism as we knew it corporations calculated the number of potential consumers garnered from political petitions and demonstrations rapidly converting these into direct marketing lists for alcohol, cigarettes, and other consumables. In the United States AIDS was conflated with homosexuality because the mostly white men were the people who were able to fight many having come from areas of privilege and power such as advertising, public relations, finance, journalism. Similarly gay populations were identified as having the disposable income available for spending on leisure and luxury, fashion, and travel. Sex as we know, sells. So what better market to promote to than a demographic whose very identity is predicated on sex?
When I think of it, the marketing of gay sexuality is not isolated to America. We saw the beginning of the marketing of gay sexuality happening in Barcelona in 2006 with the opening of the first gay hotel. Europe so often follows the lead of American directions in cultural economics: Think Marlboro cigarettes: Think McDonalds. But as multinational corporations succeed the limitations imposed by borders, the paradigm of nationality as cultural signifier becomes as impractical as dividing social groups by sexual preference, assuming one considers the fluidity of desire.
So how "real" is this sex gay people are supposed to be having, compared to the hetero- identified and identifiable population?
A longstanding argument dividing gay political circles - a discussion that typically separates youth from older generations - is over the preponderance of sex and sexuality as a defining overemphasis of the demographic. But take the "sex" out of "homosex" and all you'd have left is a neuter.
And if capital production is a hetero male dominated and the selling of homo sex is a primary engine in capital production what distinguishes "straight" sex from "queer" sex ?
Let's talk about me.
I don't like to think of myself as a particularly heteronormative assimilationist but I have been in a "primary relationship" for well over twenty five years. We don't particularly follow any standard of monogamy but our age bracket, common interests, shared finances and physical resources, common history, and above all our HIV status pretty much has us fucking each other more often than we fuck anybody else. Notice how I started talking about "me" and the way "us" unconsciously becomes the operative first person indicator?
Does that make us a "couple" and if so does that make us heteronormative? I wonder. I really do. But the subject is about "real" sex versus I suppose "theoretical" sex or as I understood, how the discourse of porn in the heterosexual art audience creates an abstraction of sex. What other discourses and forms are not predisposed to relegating the involvement of sex to the realm of the other.
Tough nut to crack, as we say. Because it means I have to now determine who "I" am, who "we" are and what is the "other". Also I have to say here what a problem it is to speak of discourse, as if the most important communication is by way of a binary , dialectical framework. Can we use the term "intercourse" thereby invoking a more sexualized means of understanding whereby multiplicity rather than singularity or splitting into dual parts is inferred?
Back to some concrete examples using me as case in point.
I like to swim, to work out. It's not only an autoerotic experience but there's a lot of sex going on in locker rooms. I have never in my adult life gone to a mens locker room and not seen some serious cruising and hooking up ESPECIALLY in the straight gyms and pools. I don't know what it's like in the women's rooms so I suppose there I have already identified myself in relation to an other. Clearly I do not identify, no matter how much would like to in sexual solidarity with women or trans identified people. Even as in my old age I am experiencing sexual proclivities that I have read and heard described as being female physical attributes. I am talking about extended prolonged orgasm without erection. Aside from aging factors this could very well be the drugs I'm on or the HIV itself. We don't have enough data on this.
But we know from advanced studies on gender and sexuality that female and woman are not the same thing.
I just saw an independently produced movie called "Rock Bottom" about what's been recognized as a crisis among gay survivors of the AIDS generation. The crystal meth epidemic. Apparently crystal heightens the sexual experience by diminishing the introverted impulse so that guys have sex that hey'd never have otherwise. Fisting is big. Also the drug seems to prohibit erection, so to have pounding penetrative masculine sex you do crystal with Viagra or a similar erectile stimulating pharmaceutical. According to this movie, typical crystal sex goes on for twelve, twenty, and more hours for days on end. I have no doubt about the reality of the descriptions of the effect of the drug, or the prevalence of its use in gay male populations primarily the age and enculturation of the AIDS generation. Not that it is excluded to this demographic, but that the problematic preponderance of its use is having a huge impact on this population. Now I am Post AIDS gay male generation, but my basic impulse is to see the crystal crowd as other. You could say these guys are hypergay and maybe that is why I don't relate, even though these are in many cases social peers. I know these people. So I am wondering: Is this "real" sex? And are these people closer to my Self or the Other? Also is the hypermasculine body ideals and sexual practices (eg throbbing/penetrative) closer to the heteronormative or the homosexual impulses of the straight identified married fathers I jerk off to sometimes at the gym?
ACT_UP and Queer Nation held sway in the gay movement with the resurgence of activism In the 90's,Yet despite embracing the term "queer", a reappropriation of the word that previously expressed denigration of the sexual "other", the social atmosphere of the radical gay movement had little tolerance for members who did not fall neatly into set categories: gay, lesbian or straight. The perceived ambiguity of the bisexual was considered traitorous; a confused or deliberately concealed sexuality. Then as now, transgendered people were marginalized. The model for sexual cool was the "new clone" typified by the white boy with closely cropped hair, t shirt with sleeves properly rolled up, frayed jeans, and Doc Martins brand jackboots. Lesbians could access cool by emulating the look and appropriating the rough and tumble boy sex in the back rooms of newly burgeoning dyke bars. Top, bottom, butch, and femme were the strict binaries by which sexual activity and identity were (and still are) defined. Gradually, bisexuals and trans men and women have come to participate more visibly, if not as fully equal players on a level ground of a social movement still dominated by the principles of white male primacy.
Since the turn of the millennium I have become involved with a typically younger generation of a queer identified community. The subset demographic specifically identifying and identified as the "radical queer anarchist culture" evolved as a result of political and social movements. Opposed to assimilating to values they reject such as participation in the institutions of marriage, military, and capitalist expansion, this is a community is making a big effort to eliminate notions of the sexually, gendered "other", from whose constructs I believe all forms of repression emerge. Sexual experimentation seemingly emulates traditional roles of passivity and aggression through expounded practice of S&M while shifts in gender identity seem unlimited. Youth in general, outside of avowed political and social groupings seem less hindered by static definitions of sexual preference. Such ambivalence for sexual classification might bode well - a hopeful evolution from strictures of social norms. But by denying political affinity with others who see gender and sexuality as a front for revolutionary change such apathy easily furthers the agenda of the status quo, much in the way a closeted Hollywood whose product reinforces and sustains the fantasies and by extension, the realities of a sustained anglophilic, phalocentric upper class.
In our radical queer communities we do sex parties where the oversight of safer sex, the abolishment of nonconsensual violence, and the physical safety of women and trannies is managed to the point of policing. It's not perfect and sometimes the activity is so regulated I sometimes jokingly refer to these organized social events "no sex" parties. And with that I come full circle to wonder what it is this thing we call "sex", who are these "others" and why the fuck it's so interesting to think about. Clearly there's a problem at hand. The tricky part is to determine whose benefit solving this problem it is. Perhaps it's "ours".