Nighthawks revisited


be gentle with your prey

There are not many gay adventure movies, it's rare to hear of mainstream gay fantasy, difficult to name one gay science fiction character. As if these genres were eviscerated from our mythology. As if our only holy tale was a Legend of Heroic Coming Out. "Mother, father, beloved relatives and friends, dear colleagues and customers ... I'm gay." Is it really our only pleasure to replay that "ravishing" moment of overcoming shame, stating it publicly, acquiring the label officially over and over again? Or is there some other subtle quality, indirect, imperceptible, ignored, that our soul feeds on?

Doubtlessly, accepting oneself and even more pursuing the jihad for being accepted by others - are heroic deeds indeed - in the time and state-of-mind when they finally happen. Though, they are neither instantaneous nor instant, there's inner development happening (dare say story) on the background of outward events (an adventure). There's usually a trigger - desired person or maybe even the one who reciprocates affection - a catalyst of the transformation. Unlike coming-out, this self-redicovery and dramatic arch can happen again and again. Any romance will tantalize our soul to the brink of madness ... in our crazily normal, safe, story-less lives.

Now choose your starting position in the drama. Random street walk. Gym or playground. Sauna, movie, concert. Feast or festival. Ascending upo the mountain or laying on the beach. Suddenly, you spot the guy you like. It's impossible not to look again. Is he looking as well? Am I just projecting? Is he gay or is he not? Will he make fun of me? Are there any signs? Might he be interested? Does he know any of my friends? ... You try to approach him. Make yourself visible. Catch his attention. You hesitate. You dare. You risk. Your heart is beating. It's creativity time! Finding something in common. Asking something not too stupid.

Being set in ones natural environment adds to the erotics of the moment. (As much as shooting cowboy movie in the office would look probably inadequate). Also, being in course of one's life distracts us from trying hard and pushing too much. It gives us casual or even genuine appeal. Being connected through the shared activity or event offers natural themes to talk about. The events unfold by themselves, without our control, without boring predictability. This is a basic element of a storytelling. Literally: we hit upon the guy, our books fall on the ground, we help each-other to collect them, look, smile. A banal movie scene not unreal at all. We don't get what we want - immediately - we have to deal with our trials, obstacles, we have to make effort, we might need to uncover hidden charm of something we overlooked before. That is what is being called an adventure. At the end, we might not get what we wish for at all - thanks goodness - and get pleasantly surprised instead.

While carrying our own insecurities, we have learned to deal with them by acted bold bravery. This fierceness often overlooks and rejects to acknowledge the insecurities that the others carry as well. The cheapest trick to overcome one's own shame is preemptive strike - to put others to shame. Protecting oneself from the aggression by aggression. Thus, the social codes of macho world continue working even in the exclusive gay space.

Hunting is one of the most used words to describe our search for a beloved/sexy one. While a hunt might raise a call to old caveman's instincts buried deep down in man's soul, most of the time we rather feel discomfort of being a permanent prey (for all the other hunters). We've developed an art of war, shooting range of looks, that we run away from instead of communicating through them. Avoiding look that imitates macho "whoareyoulookingatfag" pose (covering one's own secrets). In an attempt not to look like a princess we have devised aggressive "manly" look - which makes one jump in fright instead of jumping in the suitor's arms. Evaluating gossiping vicious look of the "wallflowers" that are encircling the perimeter of the room and pierce and chop one's self-confidence to pieces. Desperate, desperately blank, desperately uninviting look - "youarewhatislefthere" - at the end of a party or at the end of the day in cruising woods. The sticky look accompanied by a slimy smile that just doesn't let go whenever we look back in the same direction. And as a protection against that we have developed - a cold look - that we receive from the others as well - it's sliding on our face as an ice cube.

The primary touch point of any encounter - the look - is bringing all the undesirable results. The look has become a tool of self-protection or of devouring the others, a carrier of attack or emergency break for flight. Though it fails in its essential function - to be a basic mean of communication. We do not communicate, because we do not respond to the other person adequately, because we are not meeting another person - it's just a beautiful sight to be consumed, or awful sight to be repelled. We do not care about the signal he is sending - whether the object we are observing is inviting us, or rejecting us, or seems intimidated or threatened: "Oh, he's just shy, I will have to push him". Here, once again we face subject-object relationship - as usual unwanted, enforced, frustrating beyond understanding -- because there is no understanding

Sometimes it's the look, sometimes another form of attention. Old wolves chasing young bunnies are almost a cliche of saunas and bars - combining a lack of self-critique with lack of self-confidence, lack of self-esteem with lack of self-restraint - in a blend of desperate intrusiveness and obnoxious care. The intrusiveness brings back my personal memory of a foam party where horny youngsters started rubbing their magic wands, while a flock of retired wicked witches from both east and west surrounded them, plonked at them, pushed the others with fists and elbows - just to touch or grab or rub at the object of their desire. A battle for sacred relic. The obnoxiousness evokes an image of a bit more distinguished and dignified pestilence, that surrounds its target object with "genuine interest in conversation", or "giving a massage", or "help" and "care" and "advise" in this or that way.

There comes the creativity: seventy-seven ways of caring, showing attention, being present - a pretense to approach the object, to talk to the object, to touch the object - without being rejected straight away. Because they don't want "anything vulgar" (touch, kiss, sex) - just to be there, with that "interesting young man", the object of interest. Who would reject that friendly offer, that is (willingly & posingly) contrasting with predatorial nature of the space? We all avoid rejection (being rejected and rejecting) as much as we take rainbow-colored set of pills to avoid pain... We accept. We flatter ourselves for engaging beyond our range of sexual interest. But, many of those who claim the best of intentions, maybe even to their own conscience, often commit just an artistic form of assault. The ever-presence of an unwanted suitor forces the object to avoid looks, hide and run ... rapidly getting in a mindset of being in danger, calling on emergency escape routines ... thus fleeing not only away from that predator, but anyone else he might be interest in. Together with loss of feeling of security, the sensuality and sexuality evaporates.

In the most fundamental look, the omnipresence of a hunter (whatever distanced, smiling and gentle) - occupies the physical and mental space of the person that is being attended/attacked - making it impossible for the others to approach him, or for him to approach the others. That space is part of us - our soul - and stretches beyond then confines of our bodies. In social context, we are larger than the borders defined by our skin. Aggressive invasion and exploitation of the personal space is preventing "object's" own story to develop, his own flirting to unroll, in his own way, in his own pace. This good-willed care is parasitizing on "object's" good will not to hurt the feelings of the old one, ugly one, unfortunate one. While this might be seen as the object's problem, something he did not learn to cope with in life yet - our culture does not really teach us to gut-punch the pleasantries and flattery of suitors.

The most intrusive of the attention is an uninvited touch. While the most daring of the raids, absurdly it is not the rarest one. Meeting people in the good-old-straight world, we say pardons when we involuntarily brush the sleeves, we take ceremonies of handshakes and spend quite a long time together until we allow ourselves a friendly pat on the shoulder. The etiquette of jacuzzi and steam rooms and cruising zones invites to grab first, talk later and ask for permission maybe at the end. Or, if two objects reach a point of intimate interaction, the others feel welcome to join by staring, touching or using the pair as a live porn for their almost-solo masturbation session.

The most rude becomes the most common. There is no more blatant example of using the others as things. In a vicious circle of not knowing how to reject and not knowing how to accept rejection, we walk out on basic negotiation between two human beings. After intimidating look, occupying someones space with intrusive presence, using someone as a visual object for self-gratification and deliberate touch, next step is only a rape. While with the precedent ones there's seemingly less "pain and harm" involved, the quality of using and abusing the other one as an object is the same. It's a different form, not a different grade of rape.

Although there might be the ones who enjoy being used and abused - as part of more or less pre-negotiated play - there's no reason why the rape fantasies should be imposed on all gay spaces and folks. "Why do you come here if you don't want it?" It meaning anyone who pushes himself forward. There's no good in responding to fake attentive care with artificial compassion, or to tolerate aggression with all-encompassing understanding. While the predators are gaining "at least one look" "at least one grasp" "at least a minute of our time", we are loosing not only that minute, we are loosing access to the ones we choose and even our trust in safety around others. We are giving up much more. Invading the others' personal space by force robs them of security to live adventure, from comfortable feeling that would welcome a story.

There is a lot of fun to enjoy in the eye-play. There's a lot of adventures of "oh, I accidentally touch your feet with mine" kind - in a pool or else where convenient. There's a joy of conversation, there's intimacy and tenderness and love to be shared with strangers, we can play a hide a seek with pleasure even. But it is quite clear if we share it in playful manner, or if we impose our rules on involuntary co-player. If he is an object of amusement, or partner-subject in our shared game.

The only way to distinguish this is to pay attention to how the other one is replying. Hear what he says, without interpreting it to fluff our self-confidence. Read and accept those responses. Is he there at all? Where is he there in the whole situation? Who is he? How does he feel? Does he answer to our invitation? See what he shows, without translating it to caress our hurt ego. So often, a beauty that rejects us quickly becomes vain and superficial and shallow and as-stupid-as-pretty and ignorant what treasure it is throwing away. Though if we stop perceive it as an object, we might need to recognize a person, who is not supposed to like everyone (including us), who is not supposed to do/be/feel anything at all. He does/is/feels on his own, in his own truth. Because he is not a machine that has to serve us with its function.