In Conclusion

My aim with the project was not to find an answer, but engage with and add to this discourse that I find very important. The “sexual emotional aesthetic network,” has endured a disruption and shift in its feeling (networked). Though The Sluts deals with a website, again, it is used to generate hookups as the primary function of the network. Contact always followed the reviews and discussion board. With websites like Grindr, contact is not the primary function, connect is, and cruising in boredom. Just as my previous post stated about Cruising, it doesn’t matter “what happened in the end,” with The Sluts. What matters is what it says about the queer network of impersonal sex, and how it has shifted with time. So, on a timeline we have Times Square Blue, Cruising, The Sluts, and then Grindr. You can group them into two by order, but I don’t really want to because there is a major shift between the last two that is important to look at them all separately. The Sluts is actually a midpoint between Times Square Blue and Grindr (remember the bars etc. were still around and frequented by characters of the network, in the novel). The type of website introduced in The Sluts is very different, and a step above (socially for the network) that in Grindr. Since Times Square Blue and Cruising, queerness has become digitally network into what we see in The Sluts and Grindr. This shift is not progressive, in neither time nor social advancement. Grindr lacks the primary push toward contact and freedom-of-identity found in The Sluts. The Sluts lack the public private safeplace found in Times Square Blue and Cruising.

The queer network of impersonal sex between men has been reduced from public space, sexual intimacy (in terms of contact), and identity baggage freedom. This research project was created to make us feel more about this specific topic in our course. It deserved that much. Now, into its Grindr and cousins days, queer impersonal sex has been extracted of its meaningfulness. Bersani’s desire of sexuality without selves is damn near depleted (Grindr and its cousins), those in this “culture,” as I have liked to call it, are now bearing this burden. Capitalism has destroyed, or as they called it, “rezoned,” protected queer spaces, and they continue to do so. Normative standards are at large and in play. And all of this shit is not good, okay, or for the best (and I do not find it fair either).

After the liberation of an entire culture was “rezoned,” it quickly became restricted. Even in the same time we learned of the rezoning, in Times Square Blue, we learned of the restrictions that would come with the rezoning before it even occurred. The bartender, Jimmy, explained that the queer men frequenting Forty-second Street would be under new restrictions at the new location over by the water. They would be under tight police surveillance, new laws, and in a less busy part of town. And as Jimmy said they were no longer in a private public safeplace (Delany 106). One of those restrictions that occurred after the rezoning, is dear old Grindr :). Grindr and its cousins (hookup websites and apps if you don’t remember this from my earlier post) represent, the restricted connected networks of impersonal sex amongst men as a culture. And another very important thing I want to bring attention to, or add emphasis to the attention some may already have paid it-is that this network, was valuable. I think if many saw how great of a value it had, the network would not be in the current state it is in (regressed).

The porn theatres, leather bars, and peep shows shown in Times Square Blue and Cruising, were “humane and functional, fulfilling needs that most of our society does not yet know how to acknowledge” (Delany 90). And sadly, sixteen years later, our society still does not yet know how to acknowledge. Society still finds the need to make places (The Sluts website) that were never unsafe, safe with restricting websites/digital networks. The “hookup” sites are not even truly hookup sites, as we see with Grindr. That is not their primary goal of what they facilitate. The social networks that do, such as Backpage (though it is not strictly for queer men), are strongly considered nasty-in terms of sexual diseases and low. So, there has been a shift in this culture, and that shift is not one for the betterment of those in the culture, or the culture as a culture. The shift is in the way the network now facilitates impersonal sex-which does not truly facilitate impersonal sexual contact, instead, it facilitates connection. Scott’s essay references the magazine Vanity Fair and its coverage of Grindr. It coined it, in 2011, “the world’s biggest, scariest gay bar” (3). In Times Square Blue and Cruising, these bars actually occupied public physical spaces. Now, there are virtual gay bars. In in these virtual gay bars, not much gay contact is happening as the main reason for being in the bar. So what the hell is really going on here? That is a question to keep asking, and discourse to keep analyzing.

Friedkin’s Film on Cruising

In a 1980’s film, “Cruising” comes across the opening scene’s screen in large, slow, rolling words. This makes a big and clear statement. Directed and written by William Friedkin, as well as the writer of the novel it is based on, Gerald Walker, the film offers a historical context to this project. This places us near Delany’s Times Square Blue essay, in terms of time frame. Now, Scott forewarned me when he introduced this as a possible source for me, that it received some backlash. Like we have explored, the film deals with S&M (sadomasochistic) sex amongst queer men. I was so surprised to see that it starred Al Pacino! Of all the films we have heard on legendary Al Pacino’s resume, how did this interesting one stay mum. So the film is an undercover NYPD officer going into the underground S&M culture of New York City to find a serial killer. The serial killer preys on queer men. Omg, so if you read my post on Scott’s Grindr essay, you’ll know why I slightly screamed when an officer told the medical examiner to “check to see if it’s a match to that torso we found last month,” to the forearm found in a body of water. Grindr-“torsos,” get the connection? While cruising the New York queer men culture streets…a cop poses that “citizens used to be able to play stickball on theses streets…Christ, what’s happening?” Umm sir, the presence of queer men congregating in public places does not make it unsafe. He gets out and harasses some queer men dressed in women’s clothing that solicit sex, orders them in the car…and what do you know, the very men queer-shaming the queer men, orders them to engage in sexual activity with them. The camera stays still on the words “private club” etched on a building as a man walks up to it. This is symbolic of this network being a “private public safeplace” for the impersonal sex we talked about in Times Square Blue. Inside of the club, some men are dancing, some clothed, some naked, some halfway dressed…some tongue kissing, one sucking on another man’s nipple, some in leather, and not so graphic-a man jerking off is shown. This is clearly a leather bar, and its surrounding-this film is very much like the Forty-second street underground queer sex cruising, queer male prostitution(though only mentioned briefly in the beginning of TSB-remember the Black kid Darrell), the policing of such network.

The serial killer of dark haired, late-twenties, heavy leather (S&M) queer men, has his victims named “torso victims” by NYPD. Al Pacino is the cop who will go undercover, seeing he fits the serial killer’s type of victims, though through his bouts of laughter when asked has he ever engaged in any kind of sexual way with a man-we learn he is clearly heterosexual. He even tosses the queer men magazines once he assumes the undercover role in an apartment that many queer men live. The serial killer murders the men after sex. The sex scenes were not graphic; therefore, I do not understand why the film received such negative critical reviews. Only ass and kissing is shown. Much else is implied/imagined by the audience’s sexual common sense (anal fisiting, fellatio etc). The only graphic things in the film are the killings!

So about the first on-camera killing, the murder was someone the victim picked up in his “safeplace,” that is very important in terms of analyzing the film. It is ironic, another queer man in his safeplace, brings him danger-even death. The private public safeplace’s network is infiltrated. Again, when the coroner informs an officer that “the anus was dialated,” and the sperm was “blank shots,” that supports the fact that the killer was having anal sex with the victims, with his penis (I specify with his penis because the anus could have been violated by dildo’s and any other thing that would fit, and not constitute him sexually engaging in queer sex). At the precinct following this murder that is accompanies many more, the prostitute harassed and forced to perform oral sex on the police officer, is identified as an informant. During his description to the police, he states something that catches my attention-“he gives the best beatings,” he says. This is significant to me because it shows that the men engaging in the S&M sex, enjoyed it. A lot of classmates felt The Sluts was too graphic and awful in what was done to Brad and others engaging in this very sexual activity, but they need no pity-this is activity that they enjoy and it can be practiced safely. They don’t need people to feel sorry for them, and it is not that awful if it brings people pleasure.

The next scene in the move, that is filled of close up jump cuts, shows how this was a true culture. Eyebrows filled in, leather, and jeans on-Al Pacino is constantly not chosen by the regular going queer men in the bar. They can tell that he is not true to that culture, by how true they are to it. The close ups establish the queer leather club goers as important people of the culture, and the difference that lies within them that does not lie in Al Pacino. The jump cuts are used here to show the passage of time (all night, as Al is in the bar), as well as the many men who examine him in consideration then never choose him after only a mere glance where they can see right through him. The more he frequently cruises the bars and live in the scene/culture, the more he is accepted and engaged with, because he is becoming true (technically fake) to the queerness.

Lighting and music are huge cinematic tools Friedkin uses to tell the story. During the underground leather bar scenes and killings that follow after, the lighting is much darker than the rest of the well-lit and colorful scenes. Heavy rock music is played during the leather bar scenes that lead up to the sex/killings, and the music is disrupted when they occur. The music is “telling” in this way, foreshadowing to the audience. Also, probably the most important music is the tune the serial killer sings while with his victims, that is a major league on his identity as the prostitute informant tells the police that her “girls” overheard the song at the location and time of one of the killings.

At “Precinct Night,” Al and viewers discover that the very police who are supposed to be handling the “homosexual killer” cases, engage in this underground scene. Those doing surveillance of the ethics of this culture, are participators. Hmmmm. Something else interesting is occurring in the world of the film, Al the strictly heterosexual who was beyond tickled at questions of his possibly engaging in queer sex, begins to question his sexuality. The lines sort of become blurred to him. He begs his girlfriend Nancy to “never let him lose her,” because he feels that he is losing himself/his sexuality in this culture. After every instance of sexual arousal/or propositions of queer sex presented to Al, the film cuts to him sexually engaging with his girlfriend. Trying to solidly preserve his heterosexuality (rather, show that he is trying to maintain it).

Omg, in porn theatres Delany tell of, another supposed safeplace, the serial killer strikes again. In a bar, Al is approached and slightly hit on by a dude, Al quips “I’m with someone,” to which the dude quickly replies “aren’t we all? Wanna dance?” This reiterates that the contact and relations that took place in these networks were impersonal. Some could be in relationships, have multiple partners, etc…doesn’t matter, the contact is what matters, their selves are left behind, the space is for impersonal sex without norms. If you feel as though my summary of the film is incomplete, welcome to how it felt as a viewer. The ending is the worst I have ever seen. So much is left unanswered. However, my analysis of the film is not incomplete. Also, this film coming out in 1980, had to be groundbreaking in barriers. Despite the serial killing, this is a good representation of the network. The network is explored fully, “properly” or rather accurately (from what I’ve read and heard of the network), and it’s lead brought the proper attention to the representation (Al Pacino-mainstream). Again…read on

Scott as a Source (Networked Boredom, Neoliberalism, New “Sites”)

This post engages closely with a secondary source, solely, as I stated in my proposal. In terms of my title, I imply ambiguity in the word “sites,” referring to Delany’s Forty-second Street’s porn theatres etc. physical site, (though not explored much in this source/post The Sluts website), and Grindr as a website. This source is a scholarly essay written by Scott. Titled Network Boredom: Grindr, Norm, and Protocol, Scott embarks on very valuable analysis of the “shift” from what Delany coins “impersonal sex between men contact,” into what Grindr “and its cousin networks” offer-impersonal sex between men connectivity. I kind of like to call it the aftermath of Times Square Blue, contact is replaced with connection. Grindr, as described by Scott, is a website for “men who have sex with men to hookup, and to pass time of boredom (44). Scott’s essay and my close reading analysis, is overall about how queerness gets networked, and how that networking has changed over time. The topics may remind you of Tim Dean’s Cruising is a Way of Life, Bersani’s Sociability and Cruising, and Is the Rectum a Grave-however, since they were required readings in the course, I will not delve much into them, because we have already done so. A thing to mention about this source is though my project engages with the primary sources of Delany’s Times Square Blue, and Cooper’s The Sluts, this particular secondary source does not yet find The Sluts of much particular relevance. I did not find it so in my close reading of the essay, and seeing Cooper’s book did not make Scott’s list of references, he felt the same.

Scott’s essay explores and analyzes the “shift in impersonal intimacy between men” (2).  Yes, please note at this point-my project believes that there is indeed a shift. What is problematic in this shift is that “the politics of queer antinormativity (not in the norms-based on a heterogeneous set of data points that sucks, because it is far more “complicated” than that) has gone weird” (2). In continuation, Scott analyzes that “the intimate and relational practices of impersonal sex between men that once appeared antinormative have been fully integrated into neoliberal (the theory that personal liberty is maximized by limiting government interference-Times Square Blue 😉) regimes of value extraction by becoming networked.” The impersonal becomes even more impersonal, and contact is degraded to mere connectivity. On page 16 Scott points out that in waiting for someone to send a message etc, is waiting for someone that is no one in particular. In this historical time frame and network style shift, Scott notes that “in an age of Grindr, it seems to me that impersonal sex between men no longer carries with it the same antinormative force as it once did” (11). Indeed, the force is watered down, however it does still exist.

Winnburst, in 2012, notes that “social authority erodes as the Symbolic function declines (7). This is why this is so important. The value of a culture is being reduced, and the representation of the network loses its symbolic meaning of impersonal intimacy through sex of queer men. With Grindr, location and even direction is discarded (further supporting my analysis that it is mere connection, not contact). Though Scott says that Grindr places some value in connecting people who are close to one another, he ends with “people may or may not want sex to follow from connection”(14). And that’s what it was all about! A safeplace for impersonal sex! Whether it was in Times Square Blue Times Square or The Sluts website/blog, all (but the damn faux psychologist who booked a date with Brad to have him looked at for a brain tumor/disorder) seeked the sites and one another for impersonal sex. The value laid within contact, not connection where sex was secondary and only a possibility. An example of this is inside The Sluts, the novel shows how in online networks…people can easily stray away from an original or “sole” topic. (Grindr’s sole topic is to hookup) In The Sluts, on page 48, the webmaster states, “this thread of reviews about Brad has drifted far away from the matter at hand and this concerns me…I would ask that we all try to stick the goal of reviewing Brad.”

Scott covers Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, extracting from it what Foucault calls technology of sexuality. Within it, Foucault points to the 1970’s and 90’s as a time (and network) where impersonal queer sex was “not saturated by the technologies of sexuality and power” (9). Basically, not Grindr and its cousins. By the technology of sexuality, Foucault is referring to “the regulation of populations (what I call a/the culture), through all the far-reaching effects of its activity…Extremely small surveillances, permanent controls, extremely meticulous orderings of space, indeterminate medical or psychological examinations” (8). This should spark your memory of Times Square Blue, The Sluts, as well as the networks today. Scott has the sense that “queer theory’s consistent posture of antinormativity has come to feel misplaced,” and it has-that is a major part of the shift. To summarize this paragraph for you all, in the words of Scott, “Gay culture may have fostered of a kind of relational creativity with its elaboration of forms of impersonal intimacy between men in the 1970s, and because of that, carried with it antinormative force. Now, such impersonal intimacy has itself been normativized, protocolized, and subjected to the economy’s methods of extracting value” (12). We like to think that we advance, progress, with time, but that is not the case in this situation. There is a reason my blog on Times Square Blue is titled “Renovation Regressed Male-to-Male Liberation.” James Hodge in speaking of connectedness, also speaks of disconnection while connected. This seems to ring true to Grindr and its cousins. Networked boredom, results in these connections, yet it is a very disconnect between the people cruising the site. True connect comes from contact mentioned in Times Square Blue, and the hookups that always followed online connection in The Sluts. Now, the intimacy of the impersonal intimate relations is missing. The value of these relations was in the intimacy (contact), as well as its impersonal factor (not having to be attached to your body in a sense, free of the baggage of their personality, and no threat of their identity). “The real force and value of gay culture came from the ways in which it fostered impersonal modes on intimate relation: and allowed bodies and pleasure to be loose from identity” (11).

Tim Dean, author of Cruising is a way of Life, dislikes the idea of Grindr for the reasons that I do. “Because he sees it as a deflating the impersonal ethics of contact that “real” cruising can offer, because it’s less messy, less likely to leads to things that aren’t already anticipated in norms, and constrained by protocols” (18). The old networks were a place for relations free from normative standards, on Grindr this is less likely to remain so. Also, like Hodge states in his Skype conference, “Connection is very different if you have to do it in the presence of someone else.” Another thing Scott’s essay looks at is the “desire to be relieved of a correlate burden of acting in the world.” In Times Square Blue, Delany stated that those visiting the porn theatres were “desensitized to certain aspects of the films,” they were more focused on who existed presently in the network and their contact with themselves or one another (Delany 74). In Scott’s essay, Cavell concludes that “by removing us from its world, the cinema actually relieves us of this dual burden of subjectivity (31). This desire to be relieved of the burden of “self,” is no longer met within this shift to these digital networks like Grindr. The first thing you do when you log on is to create your virtual identity…and then you maintain that ALWAYS during activity within the network. The people are no longer focused mostly on the contact they have with themselves or one another, instead they are mostly focused on what the network facilitates. Also, with the porn theatres, no one was “responsible for anything that happened onscreen,” with the website, each member and the webmaster are responsible for all things that occur on the network. “In the dark of the cinema, we are not ethical-or, for that matter, political, emotional, sexual-agents in the world that is unfolding before us” (31-2). Now, on hookup websites and applications like Grindr, queer men are being held to those ethical burdens.

Scott ends this source with asking is neoliberalism the answer for this issue, :we gave some ready-to-hand answers for what this shift might be a symptom of: the short version of it is, simply, neoliberalism” (38). And as quickly as I read and answered a big NO to that being the answer, I continued to read, and Scott agreed that this was not the answer. I posed that neoliberalism is not the answer. However, do we really need and is than an answer? Scott answers with something I replied a big YES to, “instead, let me offer you something dissatisfying, a problem I would like for us to feel together: the very texture, substance, force of relationality is shifting-and that is as much a problem of sex as it is of technics” (38). EXACTLY what this project is about/serves to do. Read on for another source and analysis…

Proposal

My final project is on queerness getting networked, and how it changes with time. My primary sources are two novels, Cooper’s “The Sluts,” and Delany’s “Times Square Blue” (technically an essay). I’ll also be reading “Times Square Red,” and posting an entire blog post about seeing that most of you all will not have read it, with it not being a required reading, and are probably highly interested in what it offered. “Times Square Red” may or may not fall into primary sources-I’m unsure, as I have not yet read it. My secondary sources are very awesome, I’d like to think, and I am going to do a single post on secondary sources for this reason. I am dealing with/looking at novels, film, scholarly articles and even some papers/posts from fellow students (& Scott). Some readings & aesthetic objects from the course that I am using are Leo Bersani’s “Is the Rectum a Grave,” Jim Hodge’s “Skype” conversation, and Scott’s “Grindr” essay. I am taking a very analytical method approach with this project. Very much so analyzing, and then engaging in the discourse. My office visit with Scott, helped me to refine my topic. I definitely, had too much of a broad topic before meeting with him. I now know I must be careful not to generalize too much with opinion. Instead I will use the texts, films, etc. (media/sources), to show how the big picture pans out. Rather than using the novels to support my topic, I will utilize them so that they serve as scene analysis to the topic. This goes for all of my secondary sources as well. My second Final Research Project post, that will closely analyze and respond critically to a secondary source, will help you all to better understand my topic and what I want to say on it(thesis/approach/involvement). Stay tuned…