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The Further Future of Gay Erotic Art

by Michael Kirwan — April 3, 2010

[This rant was revised and printed in a book of my art "Just So Horny"]

Recently during the last few hours of the 2010 Tom of Finland Foundation’s Erotic Art Fair Weekend (in West Hollywood, California), Durk Dehner interviewed me on camera and asked a few very pertinent questions regarding the state of the Gay Community and whether the artistic representations of our tribe will continue to resonant with the oncoming generation of Queers. It's a subject which I've given a great deal of thought over the years and since I was pulled into the conversation "cold" I don't think that I adequately voiced my current position. So, I'd like to expand and clarify on the matter in this forum.

I told Durk that I see a great fissure appearing in the Gay Community. Eventually, a significant portion of our brethren (I don't know enough about Lesbians to claim to speak on their attitudes in this discussion. Ladies, please opine) will join the ranks of those who clamor for monogamous marriage and the "white picket fence;" adopting Romanian or Asian or African babies or going the surrogacy route; lining the pews of the supernaturalist's domain while going to PTA meetings. In general, becoming exactly like straight people "with a twist" [tee-hee]. On the other side, there will be the "sex pigs." This appellation is used with respect, revolutionary zeal, and the most heartfelt affection as I am a lifelong devotee. These are the Queers who will not conform to someone else's rigid expectation of how they should conduct their lives. These are the rebels who will reject the demand for "normalcy." These are the boys who will choose to chart their own destiny without the obtrusive and demeaning guidelines for "how things are supposed to be done" by the culture at large.

So, I see two very different camps emerging in Fag World. The first is comprised of those who willingly adopt a parallel "straight" existence. The second is filled by the creative core that celebrates our difference, our outcast status, and our unique contribution to civilization (by sucking off strangers in public restrooms and thinking about the world from a outsider's perspective — a stance that has created the best art in the history of mankind). I make a distinction between guys that just hook up and spend years or decades enjoying each other's company (and probably conducting independent sex lives) and those that mimic straight behaviors (monogamy=good, a less structured libido=bad) in their attitudes. There will be couples that identify with QueerVille and those that see themselves as just part of the "real" society. Asshole couples with children and straight cohorts will NOT be honoring the tribe by hanging artwork featuring giant drooling cocks. So as far as I'm considered, they are TRAITORS. But then again I'm no fan of Queers that don't decorate their abodes with COCKS. Hahaha!!!!

The straight-life clones will eventually become even more of an enemy to the sex pigs than the current batch of haters ("You can't cruise the parks where I bring my precious children, Tiffani and Joshua!”) but that's another story for another day.

I just learned that the ADVOCATE'S skin-rag titles FRESHMEN and MEN have bit the dust as have the Mavety titles HONCHO, MANDATE, INCHES, PLAYGUY, TORSO. On my trip to the Fair, I saw that the "Different Light" bookstore on Santa Monica was no more. There seems to be a Gay bookstore or Gay bar closing happening on a regular basis in this country. These were the main outlets for Gay artists producing erotic imagery to survive commercially. Without the magazines and other establishments that supplied some measure of financial support for those like myself to disseminate our artwork (and get some survival compensation), there seems not to be a traditional structure available for the promotion of artwork dealing with sex between/amongst males. The internet? Who knows? I'm probably the worst "business" person alive and I'm incapable of prognostication as I pretty much live in the moment. Really! I couldn't tell you what I'll be doing or thinking half an hour from now with any certainty.

But, I'll tell you this… the "Picket Fence" crowd will start insisting that all the sex pigs either join their bandwagon of boredom or disappear completely. Then, the new generation of Queers, preferring to identify and determine their right to be who they want to be, will find a way to spread the images, literature, films, and music that exemplify their beliefs to be seen by those who are like-minded. We've been doing it for thousands of years, and we will always be better, smarter and more creative about messaging to each other than straight folks. When our own same-sex brothers attack (and they will), a whole new realm of homoerotic art will develop to combat the threat and unite the freedom-loving core adherents of the cleaved tribe. Nothing sparks the creative impulse like repression.

There will be significant differences in the visuals to what we have been accustomed to as Gay art evolves. I doubt we'll see the fixation on uniforms. The "New Fags" see cops as corrupt and inept oppressors. They see soldiers as men willing to suspend personal morality for a paycheck while murdering and maiming other human beings in foreign lands at the say-so of some creepy, corporate-owned politician. They'll remember Abu Ghraib. They'll have seen Marines taking it up the ass for dollars on various websites so the "nonattainability" factor is removed. So, the law enforcement and military figures that fueled the fantasies of bygone multitudes of Gay artistic expressioneers will probably become quaint and hopelessly "retro." The whole notion of men so conditioned to conformity that they don identical outfits will seem outmoded. And, the New Fags see the existing motorcycle culture as a bunch of middle-income old farts play-acting instead of as rebellious, bad-ass, Marlon Brando/James Dean types that caused earlier generations to swoon with secret awe. Hence, those leather standards will cease to be a defining aspect of how Queers envision rugged individuality. And let's face it, the entire arsenal of B/D/S/M has been co-opted by the "fashion" sector. The depictions of helpless tethered victims (which I believe reflected the constraints of the closet) being raped by cruel masters (again, ascribing our "other nature" to being absolutely responsible for any homo-pleasure derived) may also seem somewhat trite and overwrought. So the iconography will change and morph and develop as the need to unite the tribe moves our propaganda needs forward. Firefighters and athletes will probably survive as symbolic Man/Hero representations. I don't know. We'll all see what happens.

This is not to say that the images that galvanized us as a "people" for the past half-century should be discarded or disrespected. They are important because they brought us together and bestowed a universally understood "language" that we needed to form a coherent identity which could (and did) effect social change. How we saw ourselves included in drawings and words clarified how different, valuable and viable we were in the fight against our enemies. The art of Tom and Blade and Domino and Harry Bush and subsequently myself (well, really, did you think I'd not exercise my ego? Hahaha!!!) and all of the artists since are part of a continuum. It was/is an act of defiance. GAY ART will always exist. Sure, pornography is available all over the place but artistic vision of the same subject matter appeals to people on a different level.  Porn is solely about sex while erotic art is about sharing an artist's perception on what the sex truly means. The early and current depictions of homoerotica are just part of a long line of creative efforts that solidify our genuine and unique stake in the world. It's important to understand how our tribe dealt with role expectations then, how it is reflected now, and what will be seen in the future.

The fragments and fabric of what has evolved as "Gay Culture" are all inter-related and as the New Fags take over they'll be wise to honor and build on the legacy we have imparted. I'm sure the "Picket Fence" contingent would like nothing more than to disabuse and bury all the drawings and photographs that edify cocksuckery (to SAVE THE CHILDREN!!!! no less) but, they underestimate us sex pigs. A lot of us would rather take our chances in the free and open sea rather than march forever partnered into the confines of Noah's Ark. By our artwork, we will tell them so.



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