By JOE PEREZ
“We didn’t have sex, we just rubbed our cocks together.” “I only have oral sex with my boyfriend, so does that mean we’ve never had real sex?” “He fucked my ass, but I didn’t get hard or cum. Does it still count?”
It seems that nobody can agree on what real sex is.
Conservative religionists very often define real sex like so: it must involve one man and one woman and must be open to the possibility of procreation. This view has seeped into the mainstream cultural mindset, and today many people view penetrative, hetero sex as the gold standard.
The mainstream gay culture has a different view on real sex. By and large, the dominant ethos is that everyone’s definition of sex is equal. Real sex is whatever somebody says it is. You should always avoid making judgments of others.
In practice, however, attitudes about sex are less relativistic. Gay men have generally adopted the hetero-like gold standard: straights have cock and pussy, and gays have cock and asshole. Gay men define their sexuality by their status as top, bottom, or versatile. For many of us, real sex must involve penetration.
Is there a way to come to greater agreement about real sex? I think there is. We must acknowledge that definitions of sex evolve from the lowest level (biology equals destiny) to a higher level (relativism) to a still higher, integrative view.
Is it possible to define real sex in a way that honors pluralism and holds that sex has intentionality and a design by nature? My own integral attempt is to start by defining a “base position” or “root metaphor”: sex is primarily about the giving and receiving of sexual energy from one person to another through the mingling of genitals; secondarily, sex may also involve oral, anal, and other non-genital means of bodily pleasuring.
The first thing you may notice about this definition is it says sex is mainly about the exchange of sexual energy, not simply about procreation or pleasure. All people carry a sexual energy that can be described as yang (or other-directed), yin (or same-directed) or balanced. Sex is the mingling of erotic energy in a sort of wrestling match (yang and yang), erotic dance (yang and yin), or erotic striptease or autoerotic play (yin and yin).
The second thing you may notice about this definition is it says sex is mainly about the mingling of genitals. This may come as a surprise to many in the gay community who have adopted the hetero standard that says sex has to be penetrative (that is, a cock penetrating a mouth or an asshole). Mouths and assholes aren’t genitals.
As a sex act, genital mingling is a great candidate for elevating to the core of sex because it involves symbolism that is universal, harmonious, symmetrical, and profoundly respectful of masculinity and femininity. Certainly it can be successfully argued that cock and pussy or cock and cock go together symbolically more than, say, cock and hand or cock and mouth. There is a certain elegant beauty to defining sex as bringing together two genitals.
I call this definition of sex integral because it allows us to honor the many different ways of sexual being that are present in our culture while showing how they fit together in a bigger picture. It doesn't reduce all ideas about sex to individual taste or whim. Instead, it suggests that sex is being who we truly are and expressing our highest nature in harmony with a natural and sacred design.
If something like this definition of sex is valid, then there are some types of sex that gay culture radically undervalues. Metaphorically speaking, we like to dance, but we have lots to learn about wrestling and showing off. Gay culture mainly honors sex linked to the expression of balanced sexual energy (that is, oral and anal sex). But we neglect both yin sexual expressions (self-presentation, autoerotic play) and yang (cock rubbing).
The official term for cock rubbing is frot (or frottage). Frot gets little of the respect it deserves. But an active frot movement in the gay community is working to change all that. They define real sex strictly as genital-on-genital contact, and they’re working to establish frot as something like a new gold standard. Some, such as activist Bill Weintraub, envision the cockrub movement as nothing less than a second sexual revolution.
In an interview with Jack Nichols, Weintraub explained the appeal of cockrubbing: “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…. And most guys into cockrubbing will tell you that as adults it continues to feel instinctive, uncontrived and unconstrained, primeval and free.”
For more, visit Weintraub’s The Man2Man Alliance [man2manalliance.org], a coalition of men who practice phallus-to-phallus sex. Hundreds of men have added their personal posts to the site.
Some frot activists occasionally go overboard in their enthusiasms. I think it’s wrong to say that supporting frot sex means disowning anal sex or claiming the latter is inherently degrading, unnatural, or disease-spreading. But these sex activists are more than entitled to challenge a few sacred cows, however controversial their questionable views may be.
The Man2Man Alliance gives a provocative introduction to men with a new vision of sex, a vision in tune with the historical emphasis on manly love between heroes and warriors. They’re into man on man mating, not just the rubbing of genitalia. And they’re into love between men who are strong, noble, decent, and caring. These are ideas whose time has come.
Soulfully Gay is a bi-weekly column that explores spirituality and culture from a gay man’s perspective. His first book, a spiritual journal, will be published in the fall of 2006 by Shambhala/Integral Books. Visit Joe’s weblog at www.joe-perez.com.
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