If you’ve traveled outside of the US this summer, a foreign language may not have necessarily been the biggest stress factor of the trip. Local customs are often what get us stumped.
Take a trip to the local pool, for example. Seems like an easy and universal-enough activity to not have to jump through the daunting hoops of cultural differences, right? Wrong. It can be an uncomfortable experience.
I am a native of the city of Auxerre, Burgundy, in France. It’s a lovely place of about 35,000 people, rich with medieval history.
It’s small, but it boasts many remarkable historical monuments, including a cathedral and an abbey from the Middle Ages and some ancient churches and chapels. It sits in the middle of the Burgundian hills, known for their excellent wines.
The city has another, more modern attraction that locals are proud of: its phenomenal public pool — or as it’s called there, the Nautical Stadium. It has four indoor heated pools with a jacuzzi, and three outside pools including an Olympic-sized one with a long, swirly slide. It is an extravagantly large — for its town — aquatic facility, built on the green banks of the river Yonne.
People travel from surrounding towns and villages to spend the day there, sunbathe on its beautiful lawns and snack at its eatery, when they are not swimming. You pay a small fee to get a bracelet which gives you access to the facilities. There’s nothing tricky, except for the bathing suit rules.
You see, in most French public pools, there are strict regulations about the kind of bathing suit you can wear, and therefore share with others, in the water.
Simply put, where hygiene is concerned, your swimsuit cannot be something you could be found wearing outside the pool. That means no trunks, Bermuda shorts, T-shirts or anything that is not strictly meant for swimming.
Auxerre’s pool administrators say they do not want people to drag any dirt on, or under, their summer attire into the pool. So if you are going to join the masses of swimmers — all 2,000 of them on a busy summer day — you’ll have very little cloth covering your own birthday suit.
Where else would you be told to wear something shorter and tighter, no matter your shape? Man, woman or child, you’ll have to wear some form of spandex, something tight, the kind Speedo makes. Something that often leaves nothing to the imagination — and it’s not to everyone’s liking.
If you are caught entering the pool with biking shorts, running shorts or trunks, lifeguards — turned fashion police — will blow the whistle and send you back to the lobby where you will be asked to purchase proper attire. This is where convenient vending machines come in.
In the Auxerre pool lobby, there are machines that vend soft drinks, sandwiches and espressos, and others that dispense anything needed for the pool, from ear plugs, soap, shampoo and goggles, to swimwear.
A mannequin in swimming trunks with a big “forbidden” sign around its neck in the pool’s lobby is supposed to illustrate, for unsuspecting tourists, the kind of bathing suit that is acceptable. As a result, looking around, there is a certain repetitiveness to the swimsuit designs worn by men and boys.
There are four different designs in all, perhaps because that is all that is available at the vending machine or at the inexpensive sports store in town.
In the years since those regulations went into effect, I cannot remember hordes of disgruntled tourists getting outraged about this. But occasionally, one gets caught with his pants long (men more than women for obvious reasons) and is not happy about it.
The French have just gotten used to this, but for some visitors, the fact that municipal administrators have the authority to get you dressed to their liking — or un-dressed as the case may be — is completely infuriating. That is one of those unavoidable cultural quirks travelers must contend with in France.
As a resident of the United States, used to the uncompromising French swimsuit rules, it’s always disconcerting to me that anyone would be allowed to walk straight into an American public pool, from the street to the water, fully dressed, trunks over underwear, T-shirt over chest and sometimes with water shoes on.
That could make me love the French “no clothes — just Speedos” rules even more.
But perhaps there are no people on Earth prouder of their public pools than Icelanders. Iceland, where I just spent a few days, is rich with geothermal springs and big cities enjoy naturally heated outdoor pools. Because there are no chemicals in those pools, swimmers are expected to take a meticulous soap-and-scrub shower before entering the pool.
We were told that the rules are strictly enforced everywhere, and so visitors oblige.
This was my experience recently at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa near Reykjavik, where a very polite young staff lady looked on and directed all female visitors to shower in the nude before letting them into the hot spring. No one seemed to object. But then again, people were not told what to wear.
The concept of a Micronation is a crazy one. Tiny nations, rarely recognized by anyone, they claim territorial independence but are mostly ignored by the rest of the world. Some are pretty legit, some are jokes, and some are scams, but they’re all interesting. These 17 Micronations all have individual claims to fame that make them intensely cool, in one way or another.
17. Republic of Molossia
Molossia is probably one of the most well known Micronations, with just the right blend of tongue-in-cheek humor and seriousness be wonderful and awesome. Molossia is based on two properties in Nevada and Pennsylvania, stretching over 58,000 acres owned by President Kevin Baugh (dictatorial). He issues their own money, they recognise other micronations, and if you give him enough warning, he’ll even give you a tour in full uniform. Molossia has its own alphabet, flag, and has been at war with East Germany since 1983, despite only being founded in 1999. Plus, they just added their own words to the Albanian national anthem. A little bonkers, and a lot of fun, how could you dislike the Republic of Molossia?
16. The Kingdom of Lovely
In 2005, the BBC ran a six-part documentary titled How to Start Your Own Country in which comedian Danny Wallace attempted to do exactly that — the Kingdom of Lovely is what resulted. He decided his flat would be appropriate, and gave Tony Blair a declaration of Independence, claiming it as a micronation. Partly internet based, Lovely now has more than 55,000 citizens scattered around the world, but Wallace’s attempt to gain recognition from the United Nations was harmed by him lacking any territories.
15. The Duchy of Bohemia
Whether the Duchy of Bohemia is actually a micronation or not is up for debate. Amongst the serious Micronationers, it’s generally frowned upon as they haven’t been doing anything really political, instead just selling off titles as a way to make a quick buck — rather than attempting to set themselves up as a legitimate mini-country. The reason I’ve included them is because their backstory is wonderful — they believe themselves to be the government in exile of Bohemia, which was absorbed into other Eastern European countries decades ago. They believe themselves to be descended of the Bohemian royal line, which is kinda badass.
14. Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands
In 2004, the Australian govenrment refused to acknowledge gay marriages, so as a move of symbolic protest a huge cluster of islands of the Northeast Coast of Queensland were declared the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, a Euro spending constitutional monarchy under the rule of King Gautier I. With a national anthem by Gloria Gaynor, anyone who was gay or lesbian was immediately granted citizenship — though the only economic activity on the islands was tourism, fishing, and selling stamps. Yes, it’s silly, and no it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but it was an interesting protest, and all done in fun.
13. The Dominion of Melchizedek
The so-called Dominion of Melchizedek presents the seedier side of micronations, a group of people involved in an immense swathe of financial fraud that brought the world powers down against them. Not internationally recognised, it was founded by a father and son con-artist team, who sold fake banking licenses. They facilitated global banking fraud, and were once called “one of the most diabolical international scams ever devised in recent years.” The leaders claim it’s an “ecclesiastical sovereignty,” like the Vatican City, but that’s more or less BS. They give banking licenses to illegitimate entities, who then rip off everyone else. Poor immigrants were also duped into buying citizenship papers they couldn’t afford, only to find they were useless. Nice people, all around.
12. The Aerican Empire
Their flag has a happy face on it. Do you really need any more indication that these people are amazing? They also take the micronation concept to absurdest ends, claiming diverse areas of land like a square kilometer of Australia, a house-sized area in Montreal, Canada, a colony on Mars, the northern hemisphere of Pluto, and an imaginary planet. For the first 10 years of existence, it didn’t even claim any land, but still managed to declare war on other micronations. They also have one of the most wonderful mottos around “The Empire exists to facilitate the evolution of a society wherein the Empire itself is no longer necessary.” It’s pretty much a state set up by a bunch of HGTTG nerds, which is amazing in and of itself.
11. Nova Roma
Take you standard SCA style reenactment geeks, have the obsess about Rome instead of the Middle Ages, and turn the wackiness up to 11, and you have the basics of Nova Roma. Founded in 1989 in order to “the restoration of classical Roman religion, culture, and virtues,” they’re a fully recognized non-profit with an educational and religious mission. They practice the Roman religion, do the festivities, wear the clothes, reenact battles — but I’m assuming skip the horrible torture, ethnic cleansing, and pedophilia. Well, I hope. The New Romans don’t really consider themselves a Micronation, but the rest of the Micronation community does, and they have made utterings about attempting to become a sovereign nation following in Roman traditions.
10. Conch Republic
The Conch Republic deserves to be on this list if only for having the funniest motto I’ve ever seen on a Micronation: “We Seceded Where Others Failed.” Well played, Conchers, well played. The Republic is completely tongue-and-cheek, and exists only to help drive tourism to the Florida Keys, but its founding was caused by real frustrations. When the US Border Patrol set up a checkpoint between Key West and the mainland, it frustrated a number of residents. Why were they being treated like foreign nationals entering the USA when they were citizens? So they decided they should make their own country. Yeah, they were removing the Michael, but were doing so with a point.
9. The Other World Kingdom
Finding pictures of the OWK that I could put on a marginally SFW website was tricky, because OWK exists only for kink. It’s a Femdom Micronation, one where men and women who like it when women have complete sexual and physical power over men get together. Fiercely matriarchal, male visitors are used as furniture, beaten, and generally tortured in a manner that some BDSM lovers are intimately familiar with. While apparently no actual sex occurs in this Czech manor (yeah, right), their claims as a Micronation allow them to get away with things that otherwise might be illegal — like detaining people against their will (kinda?) and physical abuse. Hey, whatever rubs your Buddha.
8. The failed Libertarian states
This entry isn’t just one nation, but instead is devoted to the number of attempted Libertarian micronations that have fallen apart for one reason or another. Hey, whenever your entire population thinks they’re John Galt, it’s hard to find someone to fix the sewage pump. There was Minerva on a small reef island near Fiji, which fell when Tonga invaded and took it over. There was New Utopia, founded by Howard Turney, which may or may not be an immense scam, depending on who you talk to. Then the Principality of Freedonia attempted to lease land in Somaliland, but public dissatisfaction led to rioting and the death of a Somali national, so the American students who founded it scarpered. There’s the more recent Seasteading Institute, which is attempting to build an ocean based new nation. I’m sure one day, one of them will succeed.
7. The Empire of Atlantium
Unlike many of the tongue in cheek attempts at micronationhood, the Empire of Atlantium went at it with a fierce devotion to the nation-state experiment, and wanted to found an extremely liberal, secular humanist utopia. Formed in Sydney in 1981, the nation has only 0.29 square miles to its name, but as primarily non-territorial state, they’re cool with that. I guess you could say it’s more a state of mind (oh god, why did I make that pun?) The man behind Atlantium is fiercely disliked by other Micronations, essentially for being an enormous flaming douchenozzle, but at least he’s trying.
6. Grand Duchy of Westarctica
For some reason, up until 2001 there was a huge wedge of Antarctica not claimed by any existing nation. All of the land south of 60° S and between 90° W and 150° W. was between the claims of Chile and New Zealand, and no one wanted it. So Travis McHenry claimed the so called Marie Byrd Land, and christened it the Grand Duchy of Westarctica. Of all the entries on this list, Westartica actually makes more sense than most. There was a huge swathe of land that nobody wanted, so why couldn’t they just claim it? It was completely unclaimed, so they grabbed it. I kinda hope they actually get some recognition, at least one of these guys deserves a win.
5. The Kingdom of EnenKio
Possibly the most widely known and condemned of the scummy, scamming micronations, the Kingdom of EnenKio claimed Wake Atoll of the Marshall Islands as their home base. These three little islands make up around 6.5 square kilometers of land, and after setting up this micronation in 1994, the founders immediately started setting up scam passports and diplomatic papers, which they sold to various unsavory types, despite them not actually having any weight in any nation on the planet. Both the United States and the Marshall Islands have released official communications condemning the actions of the EnenKions.
4. The Hutt River Province Principality
One of the longer running micronations, the Hutt River Province was founded in Australia in 1970. Based in the middle of fucking nowhere, around 500km north of Perth, this 18,000 hectare of farmland declared their secession after what they deemed to be overly draconian wheat production quotas. Unlike most other attempts on this list, the Hutt River Provinces almost succeeded. There’s an old Commonwealth law allowing for succession, and the Queen’s representative in Australia couldn’t be bothered fighting the five families who started the new country, so they just let them be. They don’t pay taxes, and mostly just keep to themselves, selling stamps and coins to make some extra cash on the side.
3. The Independent Long Island
Wait a second, someone actually wants Long Island? Huh, who would have thought? The ILI is an interesting case, because while they started by claiming the entire island as their own in 2007, on the grounds that it never changed hands to the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Or something like that. They could just be ornery, I’m not really sure. But in the scant handful of years that followed, it was entertaining as all hell to watch their dreams crumble into dust. Unlike some of the leaders on this list who kept their delusions going for years, the ILI first wanted their own country, then were happy being a separate state, and now have completely abandoned political aspirations and is now a “cultural project.”
2. Freetown Christiania
Within the Danish capital of Copenhagen sits a small, self-declared autonomous region known as Freetown Christiania. Founded in 1971 by, well, hippies, it’s run by, well, hippies. A bunch of squatters took over a former military barracks, and set up the mother of all communes. Think street music, lots of pot, vegetarian food, no violence, and no hard drugs. Christiana was most well known up until 2004 for its completely open marijuana sales. Anybody (including tourists) could just rock up to a stall and buy some hash. Unfortunately, 2004 saw the Danish government crack down on this, and the freeholding has been in a legal wreck ever since, with their very existence in question. Luckily, 2011 saw them open their doors to the public again after shutting last year.
Far and away the most widely known and popular of the micronations, Sealand is based on a WWII sea fort in international waters off the coast of the UK. Occuppied by the Sealandian royal family since 1967, they have a strong internet presence, and appear to make much of their money by hosting internet gambling sites on their servers, as it’s perfectly legal in Sealand. They’ve also made quite a spin on tourism and selling of minor titles. While not technically recognised by any other nation, they’re on an island no one has jurisdiction of, so they generally just get left well enough alone. Strangely, Sealand received a major popularity boost thanks to the anime and manga series Hetalia: Axis Powers, which was about the personified embodiments of nations (don’t even ask) including the tiny Sealand.
According to a new survey by RSEA Safety, which asked tradesmen how short they like to wear their shorts, a staggering 60 per cent of blue-collar workers quizzed have revealed they prefer their shorts “as short as possible”.
While some of those who voted in the social media campaign preferred the modesty of a longer hemline of nine or ten inches, the much more revealing four inch short-length proved the most popular.
Lilly Lee, general manager of marketing at RSEA Safety, said many new season shorts combine functionality with style, and the trend was definitely thigh-high.
“We are expecting at least a 30 per cent increase in short sales in the coming months, and this season we are noticing an increase in shorter styles, with brands almost in competition with each other over who can offer the shortest short,” Ms Lee said.
“ELEVEN have launched a 4-inch ‘Chizeled’ short and FXD WS-2 have designed a ‘short short’ while Corc’s have introduced a ‘shorty short’ style. We thought it would be fun to ask tradies in our #shortorshorter campaign how they wear theirs and we’ve had some hilarious responses with an overwhelming number of tradies voting for “as short as possible’”
Melbourne tradies Dale Cheesman, Shaun Caton-Robertson and Dyllan Milligan, from The Melbourne Builder & Co, showcased an array of summer shorts at a Prahran building site this week.
Mr Milligan is among those advocating for shorter shorts this summer.
“The shorter the better — they’re easier to work in and the legs are getting a good tan.”
Two years ago this month, I was sitting on the sofa in my Sir’s living room. It was my birthday. We were getting ready to go to the gym. But first, he said, I should open my presents. Two packages were in front of me on the coffee table.
Our relationship had started more than a year earlier with intense monthly BDSM play sessions. After we stopped playing sexually, we continued to go to the gym together and push each other to live healthier. We still go to the gym together, and today I consider him one of my closest friends. He knows what I like — sexually and otherwise — more than most people in my life, so his presents are always top-notch.
Inside the first package was a bottle of twelve-year Glenlivet, one of my favorite single malt whiskies. The second: a Nasty Pig jockstrap. But it was not just any Nasty Pig jock. I sniffed. That distinctly musky, delicious aroma, which can only be found in the playrooms of gay circuit parties and in gyms across the country, lingered in the stitching. “I wore it for a few days,” he said. “You’re welcome.”
Used underwear is one of my fetishes.
You may be asking: What is a fetish, and how is it different from a kink? I clarified these two terms in my list of 30 kinky terms every gay man should know. But I’ll reiterate their distinction here. Kinks are “unconventional” sexual interests, like bondage or paddling. That’s it. Fetishes — also called paraphilias — are objects, materials, features, or articles of clothing, like used jockstraps, that people respond to sexually, and that enhance or facilitate sexual arousal. To clarify: fetish objects are not sexual on their own, like whips or dildos. Fetish objects become sexualized when someone responds to them sexually.
You’ve probably heard of a few obscure fetishes, like high-heeled shoes and rubber duckies. Fetishes are rapidly moving out of their kinky niche and into pop culture. Stay on top of (or under) the trend with this list of 36 fetishes — some well known, others less so — that you need to know about.
Leather is one of the most commonly fetishized materials, and certainly one of the oldest. Tom of Finland’s 1970s drawings of biker boys, clad in impossibly form-fitting leather, solidified leather as a staple of gay culture. Today, the leather community is global, united by national and international leather competitions that celebrate this fetish at gatherings like the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, International Mr. Leather in Chicago, and Folsom Berlin.
What does a leather event look like? It looks like throngs of men in leather harnesses, jock straps, jackets, boots, gloves, aprons, fully-body uniforms, and other garb. Since many leather fetishists are into many other fetishes and kinks, the leather community is generally considered synonymous with the kink community as a whole.
The second most commonly fetishized material is rubber. Rubber guys are usually into the same fetishes and enjoy the same kinks as leather guys, but prefer a different material. They have their own large-scale gatherings like Mister International Rubber, also in Chicago.
It is common for rubber guys to wear full-body suits that cover greater amounts of skin. Rubber is not used for harnesses to the same degree that leather is, although a good leather store and kink supplier like Mr. S Leather in San Francisco will have plentiful options of gear in both materials.
Here’s a great opportunity to make the distinction between “kink” and “fetish” — a difference which, colloquially, is somewhat arbitrary since many people use the terms interchangeably.
Rope is a common material used in bondage, which is a kink, but rope is not used exclusively. People into bondage may also use duct tape, leather cuffs, chord, zip ties, neckties, and other tools of restraint. But since many kinksters (kinky people) into bondage fetishize rope specifically, rope becomes a fetishized material.
Rope is more rustic and romantic than duct tape. Duct tape is reminiscent of police sirens and robberies — the restraint material you’d use if you want to be tied, gagged, and left in a closet for a few hours. Rope, in contrast, calls to mind your youthful fantasies of getting captured by horny pirates and tied to the mast — and all the wonderful scenarios that follow.
4. Used Underwear
Used underwear is such common fetish item that big-name escorts, porn stars, and prominent sex figures can usually make a good buck selling their unwashed undies. (Adam Killian, if you’re reading this, I would like to speak with you about a possible business venture.)
Also called maschalagnia, armpit fetishes are difficult to explain to those who don’t share them. Our culture views armpits as nasty places on the body. While everyone should probably use antiperspirant before a job interview or family gathering, some of us really enjoy the smell (and taste) of pits, sans deodorant, and get turned on by it.
This fetish probably falls under the umbrella of “uniform” fetishes, but I separated it since there is not a standard uniform for skateboarders, punks, and alternative guys. Some people, including my former Sir, fetishize the stereotypical look of skateboarders, from their neck tattoos to their lip rings, from their Diamond Supply Co. t-shirts to their Vans shoes.
People who live in the United States are taught from a young age that uniforms should be viewed with respect, especially police uniforms, military uniforms, and firefighter uniforms. These socio-politics of respect naturally morphed into male strippers dressed as firefighters and cops — evidence that uniforms are heavily fetishized by straight and LGBT people alike.
There is a massive (albeit more underground) fetish surrounding guys with buzz cuts, or “skinheads.” This fetish typically overlaps with rubber and skateboarder/punk wear. By extension, buzzing someone’s hair is a common kink practice that is generally seen as a form of humiliation and “ownership.”
Skinheads and the guys who fetishize them tend to also fetishize urine and enjoy fisting.
Shaving the body is typically seen as a nonsexual activity and part of a mundane, un-erotic self-maintenance regimen. But for some, shaving (themselves and others) is extremely arousing. As a sexual activity, shaving would probably be considered a kink rather than a fetish. But trimmers, razors, and other modes of shaving and cutting body hair are fetishized objects, so they deserve a mention. Guys I’ve met that are into this fetish get aroused from the sensation of electric buzzers running against their skin — and have had more than a few uncomfortable erections in barber chairs.
Also called urolagnia, this is the fetish around urine itself, which for obvious reasons overlaps with the kink of watersports — a sexual activity in which people enjoy getting peed on, peeing on others, and/or drinking urine.
11. Duct Tape
Remember how rope is a commonly fetishized bondage material? Duct tape is a close second.
For guys who enjoy getting gagged, duct tape is a staple. Duct tape calls to mind kidnap fantasies and dark hallways, and nothing beats that hot, muffled gagging sound. Note: as sexy as duct tape is, at some point you will have to pull it off, which will hurt. This writer suggests using vet wrap as a nice alternative.
Like urine, spit is a nonsexual bodily fluid that gets fiercely fetishized. Piggy guys into spit enjoy getting spit on, spitting on others, using spit religiously in place of lube, and even drinking saliva.
13. Gas Masks
An old-school fetish object, gas masks are rarely found in popular culture anymore. Originally used in the WWI trenches, they were an integral part of the social landscape during the Cold War and in the early days of gas and chemical warfare. Today, gas masks are really only seen at riots where tear gas is used. As such, they have that innately revolutionary quality, and are often used by graffiti artists}\\ for protection against harmful fumes from spray paint. All this lovely protest imagery and violent Americana lends itself beautifully to fetishization. Gas masks are common erotic objects for kinksters into breath play and are popular among rubber fetishists.
Don’t confuse this fetish with the consumption of aphrodisiacs like oysters and chocolate. Food fetishes can exist for any food, from cheesecake to steak tartare. Satisfying food fetishes does not always mean eating it. If you don’t think food can be sexualized, try adding chocolate sauce, honey, whipped cream, and M&Ms to your next wild sex session.
Some people love seeing, touching, licking, massaging, tickling, and getting penetrated (anally or vaginally) by feet. Foot fetishes naturally lead people to think of shoe fetishes, although these are not the same. Like feet, some guys love sniffing, licking, and touching women’s shoes. (I personally love licking a dominant leather man’s boots, but this is more a sign of submission than a legitimate boot fetish.)
I was cuddling with a guy recently when I made a comment that he thought was very strange. I said, “Your hands are really sexy.”
He had firm, small, smooth, meaty hands — in other words, great hands for fisting. But hand fetishes don’t have to be linked to fisting, which is the kink practice of slowly inserting the whole hand (and more) into the anus or vagina, with the assistance of buckets of lube. Many people get aroused from hands: the way they look, the way they feel, their shape, their texture, and the sensation of touching them.
No list of fetishes would be complete without amputees. My ex-boyfriend, in fact, thought guys with amputations, prosthetic legs, and other missing limbs were extremely sexy, and every morning I made sure all my limbs were still intact.
Alex Minksy has more or less made a career from this fetish. The ex-military amputee is a common muse for L.A. photographer Michael Stokes. For the sake of clarity, I should stress that the fetishization of amputees is not the same thing as the kink practice of actually removing limbs for the sake of sexual gratification, which is considered an extreme body-modification kink that is by and large not endorsed by the international kink community. Simply put: you can think amputees are sexy, but don’t go cutting off someone’s leg, or your own. That’s not OK.
Doctor’s offices — along with a wide range of medical tools like speculums and catheters — have become so commonly fetishized that, like locker rooms and sports gear, they have long become a popular porn genre altogether. You’ve seen it: the porn scenario where the delicate patient gets “probed” by the gloved doctor, who is conspicuously naked beneath his lab coat.
As phallic-shaped instruments of power, it is no surprise that guns are heavily fetishized, although, for obvious reasons, exploring this fetish has an accompanying degree of risk attached. There is endless kidnapping and rape-fantasy porn on the Internet that features guys and girls being “forced” into sex at gunpoint (as an aside to their directors, these scenarios teeter into the absurd when they start orally servicing the barrel).
Also called klismaphilia, enema fetishes are commonly explored in amateur gay and straight porn. As useful tools for cleaning out the anal cavity, enemas and douches are used by bottom guys and anyone looking to enjoy mess-free anal sex, so naturally they have become part of sex itself. Aside from their usefulness, enemas are generally considered a healthy occasional practice, and have become a sexualized object all on their own.
The fetishization of “adult babies” is hard to separate from the kink practice of acting like a baby or infant, which many adults are into, and which typically involves them wearing diapers. The terms get tricky here. Wearing diapers would be considered a kink, but erotic stimulation from diapers in general, regardless if you wear them, makes them fetish objects. This fetish may or may not be related to feces (see #33).
Many guys have fetishes for piercings — also called piquerism — and as a result may also enjoy the body-mod kink of piercing the skin, which some take to extremes. I have a fetish for Prince Alberts — circular piercings that go through the head of the penis — but I do not personally have one, which means I enjoy this fetish but do not practice the kink of piercing myself or someone else for pleasure. (This will change the minute I get my long-awaited PA.)
Scars are very sexy. They tie in to our culture’s icon of the rugged warrior, the roughed-up cowboy, the soldier wounded from battle. For some people, they are an extremely strong turn-ons. These people have scar fetishes, and may sometimes choose to intentionally scar themselves in order to give themselves a feature they consider attractive. Not to belabor a distinction, but doing so would probably be considered a body-mod kink. Scars as erotic stimuli are fetishes.
25. Plushy Toys/Stuffed Animals
You’ll never look at your niece’s collection of plushy animals the same way again. Some people get sexually aroused from plushy toys — this fetish is actually more common than you might think.
I didn’t believe this was a real fetish until I looked it up. Balloon fetishes, which are very real, seem to be related to the tension of them popping, a tension that some consider very erotic.
There are fetishes for virtually every kind of clothing, but socks and stockings are certainly a close second behind underwear as the most commonly fetishized clothing articles. In the same way that I love sniffing a hot guy’s used boxers, some guys love sniffing a pair of used socks.
28. Beard/Facial Hair Fetish
You know by now that shaving tools and buzzed haircuts have fetishes attached to them. Beards and body hair should be less surprising, especially these days. Beards are so sexually charged and erotically idealized among today’s scruffier populations of gay men that one might forget the fact that beards are still, technically, fetish objects.
“You’ve been a very naughty boy. You need to stay after class for a hard lesson.”
Most of us should be familiar now with the fetishes surrounding teachers, desks, rulers, chalkboards, and other classroom fare. Some kinksters may explore these fetishes by replicating a classroom setting for their own form of interrogation torture and role play.
With all the vampire romance and gore porn that composes today’s literary and cinematic milieu, it is no surprise that blood is an increasingly popular fetish. A small number of kinky sex practices allow you to explore this fetish with little risk of long-term injury — piercing, whipping, etc. — but they are not without risk of transmitting HIV, Hep C and other STIs. As a rule of sex and of life, if you see blood, it usually means something is wrong. Therefore blood play is a difficult fetish to explore safely. The kink community does not endorse injurious and unsafe sex practices.
Like guns, knives can (and should) cause a certain degree of discomfort, which for some people creates strong sexual arousal. Like guns, knife fetishes automatically require a hefty amount of caution.
Yes, it’s true. I watched clown porn the other night just to see if this is a real fetish. It is.
I have heard it proposed more than once that fetishes are psychological conditions that manifest themselves as the only responses certain people can have to stimuli that they would otherwise consider repulsive. I personally have never fully bought this claim. However, it is no secret that clowns — which will likely be remembered in a thousand years as one of the worst creations of modern man — are commonly fetishized figures, and I cannot help but wonder if fetishizing clowns is the only way some people can respond to their horror. The mind is capable of doing many incredible things, like transferring pain into pleasure, stress into desire, and fear into eroticism, so while I cannot justifiably make the claim that all fetishes are the mind’s roundabout method of dealing with revulsion, I do wonder why clowns have emerged as such a surprisingly common fetish.
I promised my scat fetishist friend in Dallas that he would be represented on this list. Coprophilia is sexual stimulation from feces, and while the general population’s response to it is bound to be pretty strong, this fetish is more common than you might suspect, particularly among gay pig players, fisting enthusiasts, and kinky leather men. Despite its popularity within a more niche section of the gay male population, it is generally considered an unhygienic fetish to explore, since handling and consuming human fecal matter carries with it certain health risks. In my limited experience, it is also one of the more heavily stigmatized fetishes, even within the kink community.
34. Sports Gear
Remember those adolescent longings for the high school quarterback? Perhaps you enjoyed varsity baseball for more reasons than you let on. The fetishes surrounding sports gear and sport environments are so common that locker room porn has become its own popular genre. Prominent gay clothing brands like Nasty Pig and Cellblock 13 draw their design inspiration from tried-and-true sports wear, and standard gay circuit attire will always feature a pair of football pants with the front lacing beckoningly open.
Also called agalmatophilia, this fetish applies to dolls, mannequins, statues, and anything that resembles a human without actually being one. Note: while sex dolls and inflatables with porn star faces may appeal to people who enjoy this fetish, I would not immediately consider these objects fetish objects, since they are specifically designed for sexual arousal.
Also called chronophilia (and sometimes ageism), the fetishization of age is a hotly debated topic in gay culture. The term swings both ways: this fetish applies when someone older fetishizes the specific age of someone younger, and when someone younger fetishizes the specific age of someone older. The fetish doesn’t require a significant age difference — just the fact that someone’s age itself is a turn-on.
Conceptually, this fetish opens up debate surrounding the fetishization of other characteristics like skin color and body type. Some argue that fetishizing certain physical characteristics like age and weight is no different than feet and hand fetishes, which we generally do not frown upon. Others say that age fetishes, like skin color and body type fetishes, are not fetishes at all, and that the reduction of a person’s features into points of desire (and, by extension, rejection) is dehumanizing and smacks of racism and body-shaming.
Debate rages. Age fetish deserves inclusion on this list for the sheer purpose that it shows how fetishes can cross from the playfully erotic into more culturally profound and impactful subjects. The whole concept of fetish reveals that anything in the world, from pool floats to ice cream, can become sexual objects if someone responds to them that way, and as such they unleash our sexual desires from the narrow confines that our culture tends to place them in.
This being said, fetish exploration is not a free-for-all. There is a trepidatious line between fetishizing balloons and fetishizing blood. That vague line exists throughout the world of kink, which is why the motto “safe, sane, and consensual” should be strictly adhered to as you explore the things that turn you on — which, I must stress, are worth exploring. Your birthdays just got a lot more interesting.
The surprising facts prove we have bigger things to worry about.
What is it with some gay guys…and huge cocks! I have to say I just don’t get it! My NewTumbl feed is full of them…as was my old Tumblr feed! I can’t seem to get away from them! I don’t know about you, but the sight of an elephant’s trunk dangling between some guy’s legs is not my idea of sexy …or hot! No…it does not turn me on! The vast majority of them are either Photoshopped, deformed looking, or just downright ugly! The very prospect of sex in any shape or form with these huge things repulses me! Not only would oral sex be almost impossible, but having anal with them would be so uncomfortable for both parties. If guys really are hung in such a way…and despite the proliferation of photos I don’t think it’s as common as the posters make out…I truly feel sorry for them. Buying underwear and clothes must be an absolute nightmare, let alone what to do with it when not undressed. How the hell could you ever sit comfortably with such a huge appendage constantly in your way! As a gay man, I’ve handled a large variety of cocks in my day, and most have been – average or just above. One boyfriend back in the 80s had a cock no bigger than my little finger…but boy… didn’t he know how to use it. It wasn’t ever about his cock, though…he was a genuinely beautiful man. My recent ex – who I spent 16 years with – was undoubtedly the biggest, clocking up around 8″…big, but not hideously huge. As for me…well…I always considered myself average, but am told differently. We’ll just leave it at that! No, give me your nice, sexy Mr. Average, thanks! A guy I can play with, have fun sex with…and not grit my teeth!
We all know that penis size is one of men’s greatest obsessions but most don’t know the surprising truth behind the size myths.
Did you know, for example, that humans are better endowed than all our primate cousins? You may expect a gorilla to be better hung than you but you would be wrong, both in terms of absolute and relative size.
The subject has been firmly on the agenda with a couple of big stories over the last few weeks.
Over the weekend we heard a penis transplant on a 21-year-old in South Africa had apparently been a success. He had lost his penis in a botched circumcision at age 18 but now has a fully functioning member, capable of urination, erection, orgasm and ejaculation.
It makes you wonder if one day, lab-grown or donated penises will be grafted on to men who have extreme concerns over size.
And at the start of March we learned about a study of 15,000 penises, finally answering the question of average size.
The typical penis is just 13.12cms (5.16ins) long and 11.66cms (4.6ins) around when erect.
The study also busted the myth that size varies with race. While scientists say the sample wasn’t quite big enough to reach a firm conclusion on this, they found no link between size and race.
Most people assume average size is much bigger. 6ins or even 7ins are commonly quoted figures.
Despite everyone wanting to be big, we tend to underestimate our own size too. The angle at which you look down on your penis leads you to think it’s smaller than it really is and if you have any fat on your belly, that only makes it worse.
There’s evidence gay men take all this particularly seriously. A study by Utrecht University in the Netherlands around a decade ago showed penis length had a big impact on gay men’s self esteem.
In the worst cases men – gay, bi and straight – can suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. This can even lead to anti-social behavior, depression and suicide.
No wonder newspaper and web advertising continuously pushes various methods to increase size. Of course, it is very well established none of them work. The fact we keep trying, however, is the clearest signal of all that most of us believe bigger is better.
For me the kisses and embraces are the most important part. The love and the quality of the time you give each other means more than size.
But perhaps the biggest question of all is not about average size but about how important it is in sex.
Let’s start with the assumption you can’t dismiss this notion of being ‘big’ as entirely worthless. After all, on the internet there are rather more searches made for ‘world’s biggest dick’ but very few links for the shortest.
In my last article I looked at the imbalance of power between tops and bottoms, provoking some very interesting comments from GSN readers.
I have noticed in particular that bottoms tend to look for ‘more hung’ men and I often seen tops boasting about their size and capacity on dating sites.
I have often seen gay relationships fail after three or four sex meetings. After this it seems everyone wants to put their hands in a new man’s underwear, wondering what new and big thing they will find there. Can this size worship be one reason gay romances are so fragile?
My first relationship was with someone I met online was with a guy I met on Facebook. We chatted a lot on phone, including talking about sex and he boasted about his size a lot.
So when we met in person I was a little shocked to see his little master. Not shocked that it was anything unusual but only because of the mental picture he put in my mind.
Despite this, I have to say I really enjoyed myself with him and the smaller-than-advertised size of his penis made no difference at all. Frankly I can say we had some of the best sex I’ve ever had in my life.
I’ve met plenty of guys in my time, of all different sizes, but honestly as a bottom I can’t agree that bigger is always better. I simply can’t say that I have had better experience with larger guys.
The law of averages means, of course, that most of the sex I’ve had has been with guys with an average penis. And from that, I’ve taken the very clear lesson that having sex is not just about the sex – it’s an important moment, which is only good when you feel safe with someone and your partner treats you well.
For me the kisses and embraces are the most important part. The love and the quality of the time you give each other means more than size. Sex is not limited to physical intercourse. Mental satisfaction is what it’s all about. And I can promise you – if you are worried about your own size – that in bed, it’s not your partner’s length or girth but their performance that matters.
To me, the idea that size is important in gay sex is just a myth. If you are craving for a bigger penis for yourself, or for your lovers, remember that ‘bigger is better’ is not always true.
Sequined gowns weren’t the only thing stashed in Dorian Corey’s wardrobe.
IN OCTOBER OF 1993, LOIS Taylor entered the Harlem apartment of Dorian Corey, a drag performer and dressmaker who’d died of AIDS two months earlier at the age of 56. Accompanied by two men searching for Halloween costumes, Taylor, a fellow New York drag queen and caretaker of Corey in her final days, was hoping to sell them a small fraction of Corey’s wardrobe. They rifled through fabric, feathers, and sequins before they encountered a large closet, where, Taylor said, the sight of a musty green-plaid garment bag folded over on the floor piqued their collective interest.
“I only weigh 135 pounds. I couldn’t lift that thing,” Taylor told New York magazine in 1993. Resigning to her powerlessness to find the zipper, Taylor handed a pair of scissors to one of the men, only to learn that what the curious mass lacked in portability, it made up for in distinct malodor. Without inspecting further, Taylor called the police.
Peeling through multiple layers—first the bag’s fabric, then taped wrappings of what was likely Naugahyde, a type of faux leather, and plastic—detectives revealed a grisly sight: a partially mummified body in the fetal position, its formerly brown complexion now purple and yellow, its ears mere cartilaginous vestiges, its blue-and-white boxer shorts tattered, with a bullet hole in its head. Encased within the layers, detective Raul Figueroa observed, were detachable pull-tabs from flip-top beer cans, whose prime in the United States ranged from the 1960s to the 1970s.
Despite the technical hurdles posed by decay, Figueroa managed to extract fingerprints from the corpse. The body was identified as Robert “Bobby” Worley, born December 18, 1938. The only extant records from Worley’s life were criminal; he’d been arrested for raping and assaulting a woman in 1963 and served three years in prison. By most accounts, he was estranged from his family and hadn’t been seen since the mid- to late ’60s. Coupling this with Figueroa’s pull-tab dating method, detectives concluded the shooting must have happened at least 20 years prior.
Superficial cues might dictate that Dorian Corey had little reason to engage in violent crime. A graduate from the Parsons School of Design, she had a knack for graphic design, which she parlayed into repute as a costumer. In the Harlem drag ball scene—where veteran drag queens and their young breakdancing and voguing counterparts participated in tongue-in-cheek pageants to showcase humor, irony, and ambition through performance—Corey was a stalwart diva. Her experience led her to mentor and support young queens as the mother of her drag family, the House of Corey. “You lend money to your friends—not very much money—and [give] advice…sometimes, if someone got evicted or whatever, you might take them in,” she explained on a 1991 episode of the Joan Rivers Show.
What stands in starkest contrast to the gruesome implications in her closet, perhaps, is Corey’s demeanor. The most extensive video footage of Corey is from the 1990 Jennie Livingston documentary Paris Is Burning, an examination of the aforementioned ball culture; in interviews, she was witty, realistic, and unflappable. In contrast to the grandiosity of aspiring models and housewives, she had a self-possessed cadence and world-weary observations, which endeared her to a comparatively mainstream audience.
“Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world,” she says in the film. “Then you think, you’ve made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name…If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you.”
Yet it’s apparent, from her interviews and an alleged silence about her life with Worley, that Corey was also guarded. Considered in tandem with the circumstances of the discovery, plenty of questions remain. Why might she have committed murder? What was her relationship to Robert Worley? How and why was the body preserved and not disposed of? Despite a lack of evidence or sources who are still living (many queens who knew Corey have succumbed to either disease or violence), these questions have provoked a number of theories.
Though the idea has now fallen out of favor, some posited that Corey was “protecting” the real murderer. In 1988—between the probable time of Worley’s and Corey’s deaths—Corey moved from her apartment at 150th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue to one located 10 blocks over on West 140th Street. The notion that the body was in the closet before she moved, the hypothesis goes, is more plausible than that of Dorian’s lugging a corpse from one home to another.
Others maintain, more credibly, that Worley was a burglar who broke into Corey’s home, prompting Corey to act in self-defense. Corey lived in later-20th-century Harlem, where violent crime ran rampant. (Livingston recalled numerous gunfights outside Corey’s apartment during interviews for the film.) For her own protection, she presumably owned a gun; her friend Jessie Torres affirmed she had “a little .22” in an interview shortly after news of the murder surfaced. More telling, Corey had allegedly attached a note to the body reading “This poor man broke into my home and was trying to rob me.” Furthermore, the theory suggests a possible reason she kept the body: a black drag queen who lived in a poor, dangerous area in the ‘60s or ‘70s had little chance of garnering sympathy from the police.
Prevailing sentiment, however, contends that Corey and Worley had a turbulent romantic relationship that reached a tragic conclusion in a crime of passion. According to Taylor, Corey wrote a short, third-person story about a transgender woman who killed her lover after he browbeat her into having sex reassignment surgery. Handwritten on a piece of paper yellowed with age, the story seemed at least loosely autobiographical—Corey had had breast implants and possibly taken female hormones—and was peppered with references to her life, including the Pearl Box Revue, a touring drag show she’d performed with in the ‘60s.
Additional clues point to this supposition. Torres had relayed that Corey, hospitalized and in a haze of AZT and morphine, had confessed to her friend Sally in Corey’s final days. Richard Mailman, whose upcoming play Dorian’s Closet explores the story, says that, according to a police interview with Worley’s brother, Worley “showed up at his [brother’s] house one night drunk, and he was going on and on and on about Dorian. There was that sort of corroboration that he was in a relationship and did know Dorian.”
Indeed, any relationship they had was fraught. Reg Flowers, whose one-man play Out of the Bag plumbs the psyche of Robert Worley, suggests that Worley may have struggled to reconcile the pressures of appearing masculine and straight with his attraction to Corey, lashing out at her in bouts of frustration. “Being in a relationship with someone who was abusive would make sense [as an explanation], especially when you’re talking about when men are attracted to trans people,” he says. “My sense is that we’re talking about someone who might be closeted about their homosexuality as well, and so there might have been all kinds of internalized hatred and internalized oppression. My sense of it is that it was a dangerous situation that Dorian needed to get out of.”
As for the body, Mailman postulates that Corey, fearing disposing of it would be too conspicuous in congested Manhattan, covered it in baking soda and wrapped it tightly to neutralize the inevitable odor. Decades’ worth of chemical reactions likely rendered an amateur mummification job. “I don’t think she had a criminal mind. She didn’t plan the murder, and when it happened, she had to think fast,” he says. “In the mind of someone who commits a crime of passion, that kind of makes sense.”
Still, how did Corey get away with murder? At least three factors may explain this: Corey’s consistent cool and grace, and Worley’s estrangement from his family and the lack of documentation about his life, and the suppression of the corpse’s stench. But perhaps the murder’s obscurity is primarily owed to a fourth, socioeconomic factor: the othering and invisibility of two poor, sexually complex black people navigating internal and external turmoil in 1960s and ‘70s America.
A definitive answer remains elusive and probably always will. It’s unsurprising: Corey was part of a highly marginalized world, and her life—even the part ripe for a campy tabloid headline—attracted little attention. Still, whatever brought these two together—and whatever happened the day of Worley’s death—Dorian Corey has made an indelible mark.
Take a look at Akbar and Jeff, a gay couple created by Matt Groening far before The Simpsons
Before Matt Groening created The Simpsons, he was drawing a neurotic rabbit and a same-sex couple who both dressed like Charlie Brown.
In 1986, Life In Hell’s Akbar and Jeff predated Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie and they were remarkably ahead of their time.
Groening had started drawing Akbar and Jeff in the fifth grade. Years later, in 1986, he drew this comic strip where the two came out to each other.
Wearing matching t-shirts, shorts and fezzes (it was the 80s), the boyfriend twins quickly formed into the alternative comic world’s iconic same-sex couple.
‘My friends and I were trying to draw Charlie Brown,’ Groening said in the late 80s. ‘We tried to imitate Peanuts, and they never came out looking right. And so eventually those drawings mutated into Akbar and Jeff.
‘They still have the Charlie Brown shirt if you noticed. Later I was trying to think about what kind of people they were and finally realized, of course, they’re gay, they’re lovers.’
While outing Akbar and Jeff as a gay couple meant there was a backlash, Groening kept drawing them in the Life In Hell comic book series.
A beer company had approached Groening to see if they could use Akbar and Jeff as mascots.
‘Then the article in Rolling Stone came out about me, and it was revealed that, “Oh my god. Akbar and Jeff – they’re not normal.” And the beer company dropped Akbar and Jeff,’ Groening said.
The beer company said it wouldn’t work to market gay characters to frat boys.
‘I said, “Listen, these are cartoon characters. It’s not that big a deal.” S
Groening said he wanted to have a same-sex couple in the series, but thought having a straight couple would end up using lazy jokes about men and women.
‘No one can accuse me of trying to score points against men or women if the characters are identical,’ he said.
Life In Hell continued until 2012, and in that time Akbar and Jeff’s relationship kept being explored.
Akbar and Jeff, for the secondary stars of an alternative comic, also inspired many.
How Matt Groening’s Akbar and Jeff were inspirational
Scott Craig and Peter Alexander, a gay couple from Silverlake, created a LGBTI music venue Akbar – a tribute to the comic. Alexander had previously worked for Groening.
‘This is literally how me and my boyfriend got together,’ one guy said on Reddit.
‘When I was 14 I was sleeping over at a friends house & we were high and giggling over a Matt Groening book I’d got earlier in the day at a church book sale.
‘Turned page, this comic came up. We both got a little quiet. Heh…heh… Haltingly, friend said “Ummm hey….are you….gay?”
‘”Maaaaaaaybe” says I. And that was the first night of many that we made out that summer!’
Remember when Mattel accidentally made a super gay Ken doll? We do. And queer people made him the best selling Ken doll, ever.
The year is 1993. Barbie is cool as shit, but her boyfriend Ken…not so much. Way less outfits, way less adventures, and with cool dudes like G.I. Joe and the New Kids on the Block fashion dolls to woo the blonde bombshell over, Ken’s chances weren’t looking great. Mattel needed to do something, and stat. So they surveyed a bunch of five year olds who definitely knew what cool was and made a whole new Ken, ready to burst out of the closet and say hi to the world.
Chrome cock ring necklace and all.
You may be shocked to find out that children have a very easily influenced idea of what’s cool. The quizzed little girls that Mattel surveyed were more than happy to repeat back what they saw as cool (mainly whatever was airing on the then still-newish MTV), but five years olds aren’t exactly known for their in-depth understanding of social trends, gender norms, and the general cultural climate. So they had no idea that say, Madonna’s cool back up dancers, were actually gay AF.
And that’s how we ended up with Earring Magic Ken, a companion to Earring Magic Barbie clad in a purple mesh shirt, a purple leather vest, wearing a big, shiny, silver ring around his neck. While he fits into some gay stereotypes, (especially from the early ’90s), it’s the necklace that really got everyone’s attention.
As gay author and journalist Dan Savage explains in a column about the doll from 1993, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, besides being a sex toy, a cock ring was the queer fashion statement of the time. Leather daddies wore them stitched to their vests. Lesbians wore them as zipper pulls. Placement on clothing communicated secret preferences to those in the know, much like pierced ears at the time (Ken does have that “straight” at least). And many, many people wore them around their necks as a necklace. Ken included. The accessory was a staple of the gay club culture that was blowing up at the time, a scene Ken would fit right into with his leather/mesh ensemble.
Obviously, none of those little girls told the Mattel researchers that they wanted Ken to wear a cock ring around his neck. It is probably true that the adults designing the doll saw the fashion out of context and never thought to dig deeper. Mattel staunchly denies the doll was intended to have anything to do with homosexuality at all. The early ’90s was a time when queer culture was just starting to blossom in the open, still reeling from the horror of the AIDS crisis. Queer culture and pop culture were beginning to mingle in a way they hadn’t before, and Earring Magic Ken is an example of what happens when you pay attention to the what of trends and not the why.
Mattel, who has never been pleased about this connection, rushed to discontinue the dolls. However, the story spread faster than them, and sales for the doll spiked, making him the best selling Ken doll ever. Some even claim the best selling Barbie model ever, but as Mattel is unwilling to discuss our friend Ken’s current status, that title goes to Total Hair Barbie (released the year before).
Still, he will always have his little place in history as the time Barbie supported her boyfriend in exploring his homosexual tendencies. Who knew Barbie was such a cool girlfriend?
How Barbie’s Boyfriend Ken Became an Accidental Gay Icon
Mattel has been manufacturing its Barbie dolls since 1959. Shortly thereafter, it began producing dolls of Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken. Girls really liked Barbie, and the doll became a certifiable cultural force, but Ken dolls never sold as well. In an effort to increase sales of Ken dolls in the early ’90s, Mattel’s research department worked with a group of 5-year-old girls to find out what might make them more likely to nag their parents to buy one.
This workshop of young girls, inspired by images and music videos they’d seen on the then-culture-defining MTV music video network, wanted Ken to have a cool, new look, as author Matt Haig detailed in his book “Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time.” And what “cool” meant to 5-year-olds who’d seen MTV was maybe a mesh shirt. And a leather vest. And an earring, and tight pants. Oh, and maybe a flashy necklace, too.
The minds at Mattel went on to produce this version of Ken and in 1993, Earring Magic Ken was born. He wore a lavender mesh shirt, a matching purple leather vest, hip-hugging black jeans, and even had a new earring at a time when men having pierced ears in the United States was still somewhat risqué. Ken, just like the other dolls in the Earring Magic collection, even came with a human-sized clip-on earring for the kids to wear.
Ken even had a flashy, circular chrome ring dangling around his neck. But Mattel’s choice for Ken’s necklace would cause a row that the company would soon regret. That’s because a panel of 5-year-olds generally isn’t sophisticated enough to parse the subversion of gender norms, to understand the flouting of traditional masculinity, to ken the coded language of underground fashion — or to predict the cluelessness of toy designers.
At this time, we should point readers who’d rather avoid more graphic discussion of human sexuality in another direction. Perhaps you’d like to read about solar eclipses, or how 3-D printing works? You also could learn whether a giant squid could actually defeat a submarine. But if you’re sticking around beyond this paragraph, things get a little more adult.
“He’s always read gay,” said Dan Savage, internationally renowned columnist and podcaster, in an email, “but has he ever read gayer than he did with a gay sex toy around his neck?”
Savage originally wrote about Earring Magic Ken in the summer of 1993, when much of the pop culture world was having a good laugh at Mattel’s lack of understanding that while little kids saw what Prince, the members of Right Said Fred or Madonna’s backup dancers were wearing simply as “cool,” the adult world was clued in to how gay it was.
The doll flew off the shelves, especially since gay men, including Savage, rushed out to buy a Ken doll. The kitsch factor drove Earring Magic Ken to become the best-selling Ken doll at the time. We reached out to Mattel for comment multiple times — to find out just how well the doll sold and whether it remains the No. 1 Ken, as well as for the current regime’s take on this piece of corporate history — but they did not return our requests.
Though the Earring Magic Ken incident showed that LGBTQ culture at the time had infiltrated the mainstream (or, arguably, been co-opted by it), Ken might’ve simply remained the butt of late-night jokes until Savage — who’s since gone on to serve as one of the country’s most prominent sex and relationship advice columnists — published his explanation of the gay-culture subtext communicated by wearing the sex toy.
As Savage outlined back in the 1990s, the chrome metal ring used as a sex toy was also worn as a fashion accessory among certain subsets of the queer community. The rings were used as necklaces, bracelets, zipper-pulls, and worn just about anywhere else they could be attached. And in a form of code, specific placements on clothing could imply certain sexual preferences among the gay crowd; you can read Savage’s more detailed account of the nuances in the Chicago Reader’s archives.
Mattel quickly pulled the dolls from the shelves and apologized for the error. Clearly, it was not their intention to associate a child’s doll with an adult sex accessory.
Ultimately, Savage thinks the Earring Magic Ken incident is more of an amusing cultural blip than some kind of important moment, noting that neither the doll nor the hubbub is well-known today. “I don’t think a gay man under 40 would even know what we we’re talking about,” he said.
Adam McDonald is a 36-year-old gay man and film critic for the Bored as Hell podcast. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said when asked about Earring Magic Ken.
Dan Savage still has his Earring Magic Ken doll, though. When asked him about it, he quickly emailed a brand-new photograph of it, sex toy and all, proving that it had left at least some impression — if nothing other than as a relic of a unique time in quickly changing American popular culture.
Brent Bozell is one of those right-wingers who has made a career of being indignant at every hour of the day, always on the lookout for an excuse to whine and complain. One of the things that upsets him is that some comic books feature openly gay characters. “The world of comic books has sure changed a lot since we were young,” Bozell wrote in a 2006 column. “Who would have predicted, 10 years ago, that the comics would become a red-light neighborhood where sexually perverted superheroes would be packaged to elicit from children fascination and sympathy?”
Like most professional moralists, Bozell has no real sense of history: he’s a traditionalist with no grounding in the past. If Bozell knew anything about earlier times, he would realize that gays have been portrayed in comics for decades, not just in comic books but even in comic strips that ran in family newspapers.
What could be more wholesome than Mickey Mouse, the big-eared emblem of the Disney empire? Yet a Mickey Mouse comic strip from January 22, 1931 shows the little rodent meeting a big cat who displays all the markers stereotypically given to gay characters during that period: a lisp, a limp handshake, and a general effeminacy of manner (in this case, batting eyelashes). Revealing himself to be not just homophobic but a violent gay-basher, Mickey attacks the big cat.
In the early decades of the 20th century, many cartoonists featured characters that were gay stereotypes: swishy men and butch women. I’ve sprinkled examples throughout this essay. Here are some notes on them (to maximize enjoyment of these images, I suggest clicking on each one):
1. In an April 11, 1925 Wash Tubbs sequence, the hero meets a “girl” who turns out to be Desperate Desmond, a cowboy actor.
2.In a January 11, 1927, Little Orphan Annie strip, the pupil-less waif talks to Miss Brussels, a very manly woman who runs an all-girls schools (which were, in popular folk-lore, places where Sapphic love flourished). “Hm-m-m- Never saw anyone just like that before,” Annie reflects. “Dresses lots like a man, doesn’t she, Sandy?” Like many of the masculine women in Annie, Miss Brussels turns out to be a very bad egg, who mistreats the poor orphan. (Later on in the Cold War era, Annie meets some traitorous State Department diplomats who seemed very effeminate, conforming to the commonly-held notion that gays were more likely to betray their country).
3. A 1930 Sunday page of The Smythes, a domestic comedy drawn by Rea Irwin, the famed cartoonist who was so instrumental in creating the visual ambience of The New Yorker magazine, features a very foppish interior decorator named Mr. Bullfinch.
4.Frank King also used an “interior decorators are gay” gag in a June 06, 1930 Gasoline Alley strip.
5.Terry and the Pirates in the late 1930s, which had a lesbian villain (Madam Sanjak from 1939) and a gay villain Papa Pyzon (in 1936) based on Charles Laughton (who was himself gay and also collected comic strip art). Madame Sanjak specialized in kidnapping and hypnotising young girls, and making them her slaves. For more on these characters see this article.
6. A Spirit story, by Will Eisner, from September 07, 1941 introduces a character named Miss Dorothy Heartbern, who turns out to be a very fey man. Asked to impersonate the Spirit, he says, “The Spirit! Oh! How romantic!! I just love bad men!!” The phrase “a friend of Dorothy” was commonly used to describe gay men in that period.
There are enough of these gay characters that one could easily do an anthology called “The Gay Image In Comics before Stonewall.” The general point to make about these characters is that they are all homophobic stereotypes, although the tone of the representation varies greatly. Sometimes the cartoonists were mildly satirical (as swishy she-men), sometimes melodramatically hostile (as vile seducers of children).
One last point needs to be made: conservatives like Bozell never objected to these gay stereotypes when they flourished in the comics. So what people of this ilk are upset about is not the representation of homosexual per se, but about the fact that gays are increasingly shown in a neutral or favourable light. As long as gays are represented in a homophobic way, Bozell and his political allies would never raise a voice of objection. For the Bozells of the world, it is okay to show gays, as long as you don’t show them as human beings.
Mickey Mouse, Homophobe, sans everything, 16 December 2009, by Jeet Heer
“Gay” is a great word. Here’s why: it rhymes with everything. Also, it’s brief. Therefore it should be no surprise that even before it meant “inverted sinner pervert homosexual” and still meant “happy.” What happened next was that gayness and happiness split up, but they’ve been getting back together ever since and are going strong. Look at our ancestors in gayness!
16 Vintage “Gay” Ads That Weren’t Actually About Gay People But Should Be Now