What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.
I was 16 when I started, tentatively, to write about my sexuality publicly. I had already been soul searching privately for some time, but my public writings were largely confined to my bipolar disorder diagnosis and its relationship to my rejection of the youth-prison system commonly known as school. With a new, pseudonymous account on an early blogging platform called OpenDiary.com, however, I chronicled dreams, fears, and desires.
Then one day, my grandfather died, and I saw a side of my mom that I’d never witnessed so clearly before. I wrote this about it:
Almost two and a half weeks ago my mom’s father died. He was seventy-something and sick for almost a year before. I never really knew the man. In fact, I never really got to know any of my extended family. Most of them live in Israel, except for my mother’s brother (my uncle) who I don’t talk to that often anyway. They’re really more of acquintences than they are family.
So, I was just sad that my mom was sad.
I was expecting my mother to come home rather depressed and there’d be this whole awkward tension between us. That’s how it is most nights. I’m happier when she’s not around because we can both get quite territorial.
To my delight, nothing of the sort happened. In fact, quite the opposite. Like she usually does, she and my younger brother began talking. She was starting to tell him all about her trip.
I don’t talk to my mom about much, but many times I feel completely excluded because she’ll only talk like that with my brother. I’m partially to blame though. Communication and friendship is a two-person deal afterall. This time though, I went to the kitchen and all three of us talked for hours. It felt really good to be part of that.
[…S]he was really open and honest with everyone. The minute she got to saying that I thought about myself. I always do when people talk about honesty–even when I do. There’s still something I haven’t told her (or my brother) which I _really_ feel I have to. Only, she just got over the shock of my decision to drop out of school and all the years of bitter fights we’ve had, I’m scared to do almost anything that I think might make her upset.
So, here I am reading people’s diaries and actively trying my very best to promote a sense of tolerance and honesty among people and I’m laced with guilt about this one secret I need to tell the two of them–two of the very few most critical people in my life. I really am a hipocrit.
All in good time, I keep telling myself, but that doesn’t stop that painful pang I feel everytime something swings my thoughts in that direction. Because of the fact I’ve already told some people I know personally about this diary, I’m just going to leave this a smoking gun for now. Let’s hope the second act comes quickly.
We are all victims of our society, but none suffer more tragically than young people. And no suffering is more personal than our struggle for sexual freedom.
In 1992, when I was 8 years old, I went to watch the Disney movie Aladdin in the theater—I saw it six times that year alone. In one scene, Aladdin is locked to the wall of a dungeon with his wrists above his head. It’s one of my all-time favorite movie stills, even though the scene as a whole is frustratingly impotent. In fact, typical of Disney and throughout Aladdin, there was a fair deal of bondage imagery. What most people remember, however, isn’t Aladdin’s captivity scene at all. Instead, it’s the relatively ubiquitous image of Jasmine in shackles.
Since I was a very, very small boy, I have had to contend with a reality in which I feel a “painful pang…every time something swings my thoughts in that direction.” It’s like getting shocked by a jolt of static electricity. It’s like I’m somehow out of phase with the world. It’s an endless struggle to be viewed as culturally competent—or, sometimes, simply sane.
The “pang” is visceral. It burns me. It hits me deep in my chest. It skewers me first, then spreads to my arms, my legs, my palms, as though a cultural hole in my heart has drained them of blood. We are all victims of our society.
The injustices are small, but omnipresent; sexual death by a thousand cuts. It manifests in the way people look at me, talk to me, talk about me. It manifests in women’s eyes when they look away if I smile at them; they’re “supposed” to be coy and I’m not—so I can’t. It manifests in the clothes I feel comfortable wearing and the clothes I don’t—and where I feel safe wearing them, and where I don’t. It manifests in the counter-culture they say I belong to, and the ones they say I don’t. It manifests in fantasies I’ve learned to like because they are sexist. It manifests in what porn exists, and in what porn doesn’t—and in their explanations of why.
The choice our cultures—both the larger, mainstream one of which we are a part and the smaller, subcultures of which we are also a part—give us is simple: learn to enjoy your unnecessary shame, or you will find no entrance to enjoyment. “Rebel using taboo,” it goads you, “for in so doing you will recreate me even if you replace me with your own culture.” Its demand could not be more clear: suffer or acquiesce.
You find refuge with a lover, or a partner, or a fuck buddy. And there you stay, protected, safe, ignorantly believing you feel “joy.” You lie there, in coital bliss, ignorantly believing that when you return to your job, or your family, or anywhere you are not comfortable, that you will be “happy” when you next see your love.
But you are not happy. You are contented. You have been drugged. Anesthetized. Numbed.
I go to sex parties and I hear the complaints of people there: “I haven’t played in three weeks!” FUCK YOU! I scream at them in my head. I go to public parties and I practically see the desperation dripping off (usually) older, (usually) submissive men. They leer intrusively, and so I often brace to barricade their advance. BACK OFF!, I scream inside, feeling trapped in a world between worlds. I don’t care if it’s been 50 years since you last played, you have no right to her!
“Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desire and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions…. Suggestions from the State.”
—Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Chapter 2